Your Private Facebook Messages Aren’t So Private: Shared Links Count Towards ‘Like’ Data

facebook-logoSee that “Like” button just above this sentence? The majority of folks think that the number displayed is made up of all those who’ve actually “liked” this article. It’s not the case however — the Like button is an aggregate score from a variety of Facebook actions, including links shared within private messages.

TheNextWeb uncovered a bug last week that was actually providing two Likes for data shared privately. Facebook did confirm that the issue of double counts was a bug, but did also confirm that shared messages do count towards the overall “like” data.  In fact the Facebook Developers page clearly states the following about Like buttons:

The number shown is the sum of:

  • The number of likes of this URL
  • The number of shares of this URL (this includes copy/pasting a link back to Facebook)
  • The number of likes and comments on stories on Facebook about this URL
  • The number of inbox messages containing this URL as an attachment.

The fact that private shares gave an endorsement (even if an anonymous one) drew a bit of an uproar. What if users were sharing a link of a product that they didn’t like? Well, it will still be counted as a “like.” In fact every time that a link is privately it counts as an additional Like on the Like button.  Facebook gave TheNextWeb the following statement on the private message “likes:”

Absolutely no private information has been exposed and Facebook is not automatically Liking any Facebook Pages on a user’s behalf.

Many websites that use Facebook’s ‘Like’, ‘Recommend’, or ‘Share’ buttons also carry a counter next to them. This counter reflects the number of times people have clicked those buttons and also the number of times people have shared that page’s link on Facebook. When the count is increased via shares over private messages, no user information is exchanged, and privacy settings of content are unaffected. Links shared through messages do not affect the Like count on Facebook Pages.

We’ve reached out to Facebook for more data on the Like button. For more information see TheNextWeb.

Related Topics: Channel: Consumer | Facebook | Facebook: Privacy | Features & Analysis | Top News


About The Author: is the Director of Marketing for Cypress North, a company that specializes in social media and search marketing services and web-based application development. He has been in the Internet marketing industry for 6+ years and specializes in Social Media Marketing. You can also find Greg on Twitter (@gregfinn) or LinkedIn.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn

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  • Anton Koekemoer

    Hi Greg,

    Personally – If its shared from a button it makes sense. Especially from a
    third party sharing app / tool like shareaholic. But manually copying a link
    URL and sharing just seems a little to “sneaky” to me to use it as a signal, especially if it has been privately / selectively shared…

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