Sep. 24, 2012 at 2:19 PM ET
Fears that Facebook recently posted users' private messages going back to as early as 2007 are false, but the viral concern about it has led to a fair amount of panic among some users, and now even the French government.
Officials asked Facebook representatives in that country to appear before France's data privacy agency on Tuesday to explain how it is that some Facebook users believe their privacy was violated by the sudden appearance of old messages that some believed were private.
On Monday, a similar ripple of concern reverberated on various websites around the world. But what's showing up are not one-to-one messages, but old wall posts users made way back when.
The wall posts are appearing on Facebook's Timeline, which shows your Facebook information on a year-by-year basis. Timeline, not beloved by everyone, started being rolled out to all of Facebook's 955 milllion users worldwide in recent weeks by the social network.
NBC News contacted Facebook, and a spokesperson said that "a small number of users raised concerns after what they believed to be private messages appeared on their Timeline. Our engineers investigated these reports and found that the messages were older wall posts that had always been visible on the users' profile pages. Facebook is satisfied that there has been no breach of user privacy."
Here on the Tech team, we checked our own Facebook accounts to make sure. Indeed, older posts were showing up on our Timelines. But they were not the private emails, or direct messages, that are sent between Facebook users and are not visible to anyone else.
They were, however, a story from another time, a time when Facebook friends really were friends, and it was a smaller virtual community than it is now.
Of course, many of us shared our addresses, phone numbers and what now seem like very personal messages as wall posts because most of us a) didn't have more than 200 "friends" like we do now and B) we didn't know better then; Facebook was still a magical place and we were digitally naive.
Also, Facebook hadn't yet become a behemoth, although it was on its way. In 2008, it had 100 million users. In early 2009, a headline from Mashable said: "Facebook Has 150 Million Active Users. Whoa."
There are good reasons to be wary of what Facebook does and doesn't do these days. Trying to navigate your own settings can be a headache; Facebook still does not make it as easy as it should. And late last year, Facebook agreed to settle federal charges that it violated users' privacy by getting people to share more information than they agreed to when signing up for Facebook.
Most recently, Facebook's partnership with Datalogix to work to show a direct correlation between the ads Facebook users see on the site and the products they buy is worrisome to privacy groups in the U.S.
This is probably a bigger issue right now. Those old posts? Let them serve as a reminder and cautionary tale going forward. If you are finding it annoying or upsetting to see those old posts in your Timeline, click on the pencil within the window where the messages are showing up, then select "Hide from Timeline."