The social network was forced to scramble a statement to dispel the speculation, which first appeared in French national media yesterday – the day Timeline was rolled out in the territory – and was dispersed on other social networks including Twitter.
It is thought French users may have seen wall posts that appeared between 2007 and 2009 and believed they were private messages, because then there was no like button or a comments feature – meaning wall posts went back and forth between users more often.
A Facebook spokeswoman said: “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.”
Facebook also investigated a similar rumour last year, which was believed to have started in Finland, that was also found to be false.
In spite of the statement, many users reported on Twitter that they were opting to tighten the privacy restrictions on their pages, with some people claiming they were tempted to cancel their profiles altogether.
France’s online privacy watchdog CNIL has also summoned Facebook’s top officials to the territory to answer questions about whether it has breached confidentiality conditions to its users.
Facebook’s share price dropped 9.06 per cent last night. It is now down 2.07 per cent to $20.79 – almost half (45 per cent) of its original IPO valuation.
Its shares were also likely hit after the publication of a report in US financial journal that said Facebook’s stock is only worth “$15”.