Facebook says it doesn't save your unpublished posts

Did you type something stupid into your Facebook status update, then decide not to post it? Are you worried about reports that Facebook collects unpublished text? Rest easy, Facebook says.

Text sent to server as you type, but that's just for linking and tagging purposes, company says

'While there may be water on Mars, don't believe everything you read on the internet today. Facebook is free and it always will be,' Facebook wrote Monday. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

Did you type something stupid into your Facebook status update, then decide not to post it? Are you worried about reports that Facebook collects unpublished text? Rest easy, Facebook says.

The company does send your text to its server as you type, but it does not save the unpublished content, Facebook told CBC News today.

We had contacted Facebook regarding reports that Facebook collects such "self-censored" updates and comments, even if they were never posted.

Facebook appeared to be doing just that, Irish technology consultant and blogger Priomh O hUiginn warned earlier this month after inspecting the site with some web developer tools that let you see what a website is doing behind the scenes.

He typed in some text into the status update box that invites you to share "What's on your mind?" and found that even though he didn't hit send, Facebook sent an HTTP post request — an instruction to its server to store the body of the message.

"This is outright Orwellian," O hUiginn wrote.

Scanning for names

Facebook says the text is sent to the server for a specific purpose — to scan for the names of people or websites that should be tagged and linked to in the post. The company said it does not save the unpublished text.

However, O hUiginn notes that Facebook indicated in a 2013 report co-authored by one of its own researchers that it collects at least some information about text that's typed and never posted.

The study, a collaboration with a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, found that kind of self-censorship to be very common — 71 per cent of 3.9 million users self-censored at least one post at the last minute during a 17-day period. In the study, the researchers said that for the purposes of the study, they recorded whether at least five characters were typed into the box, not the content.

Despite O hUiginn's concerns, he says he still uses Facebook "and will happily trade my personal information for the convenience it provides, and the reach it gives me to my social graph."


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