Yet another reason to scrutinize Facebook.
Three unnamed sources speaking to TechCrunch.com said messages they had previously received from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg via the Messenger app were no longer in their inboxes, though the messages they sent to Zuckerberg remained.
The messages were removed via a special tool made available to Zuckerberg and several other Facebook executives. The company said the tool was implemented in 2014.
“After Sony Pictures’ emails were hacked in 2014, we made a number of changes to protect our executives’ communications,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement to TechCrunch. “These included limiting the retention period for Mark’s messages in Messenger. We did so in full compliance with our legal obligations to preserve messages.”
Facebook had never publicly disclosed the removal of these messages until earlier this month, prior to Zuckerberg’s two days of testimony on Capitol Hill about a variety of issues, including the data it compiles on its users.
Regular Facebook users aren’t able to delete their own messages from other people’s Messenger inbox, so now a number of users want to know why a special process was applied to Facebook executives.
The company officially apologized April 6 for the deletion of executives’ messages and said it would stop deleting those messages until it could make the same feature available to all users.
“We should have done this sooner — and we’re sorry that we did not,” a Facebook spokesperson said in an email to The Guardian.
The company did not immediately comment when asked by The Guardian if it had other secret privacy tools for executives.
But if you’re troubled by the notion of Facebook executives secretly deleting messages, you might be even more troubled by the fact Facebook is planning to offer that feature to all of its users.
“We have discussed this feature several times,” a Facebook spokesperson told CNBC. “And people using our secret message feature in the encrypted version of Messenger have the ability to set a timer and have their messages automatically deleted. We will now be making a broader delete message feature available. This may take some time. And until this feature is ready, we will no longer be deleting any executives’ messages.”
Sounds convenient if you meant to send a message to Friend A but you sent it to Friend B instead.
But what if someone has been sending you unwanted or harassing messages? Do you like the idea those messages could be removed by the sender?
That’s the aspect of the message-deletion feature that has some social media analysts concerned.
“If someone is harassing you, for example, or being abusive, and they can go back and modify or delete your conversations and then say they never behaved the way you accuse them of behaving, that’s pretty awful,” Florencia Herra-Vega, the CTO of encrypted messaging app Peerio, told Business Insider.
Cynthia Khoo, a Toronto-based lawyer working in internet policy and digital rights, told Business Insider that Facebook has a history of rolling out a new feature without realizing the “potential implications and consequences” for certain users.
“I would compare it to when they claimed to provide a tool to protect against non-consensual distribution of intimate images (‘revenge porn’), and were widely panned because it involved victims having to upload the exact photos they’re concerned about, to Facebook of all places,” she said.
With so many of Facebook’s recent policy decisions leaving people shaking their heads, why would anyone expect this newest feature to be any different.
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