Techcrunch has reported that Facebook has discreetly been deleting CEO Mark Zukerberg’s messages, that he had sent via Messenger. Whilst the average Facebook user, traditionally cannot retract the messages that they send fellow users, this was precisely what Facebook did back in 2010, unbeknown to the recipient. These sources have been confirmed through ‘proof of receipts’ that were shown to Techcrunch, that clearly show old Facebook users in conversation with Zukerberg. The difference however, is that whilst Zukerberg’s replies have been deleted from the sources’ inboxes, their own messages to him, have remained.
When quizzed on these findings, Facebook released the following statement justifying their actions in the name of corporate security:
“After Sony Pictures’ emails were hacked in 2014 we made a number of changes to protect our executives’ communications. 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.”
The deleting of messages was never publicly declared nor were the recipients informed privately, which suggests that Facebook had not been keen to bring this to the general public’s attention, highlighting whether this was in fact another breach of user trust. Consumer trust in Facebook has been somewhat fraught in recent weeks, in light of one of the social network’s largest data breaches in history, that has seen over 80 million people had their personal information harvested by Cambridge Analytica, through an app called ‘thisisyourdigitallife’.
The Future of Facebook Messenger
Currently, Facebook offers a ‘Secret Conversation’ option, in which users can set a timer on messages, that alerts all parties in the thread, that after a certain amount of time, the message will expire and be erased. However, the future of Messenger, will see Facebook working towards a far more secretive online messaging forum, that will allow users the option of unsending messages that they have sent to friends online, disappearing from both their threads even after the message has been seen and read by both parties.
In a statement released to several publications, Facebook has said:
‘We have discussed this feature several times. 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. We should have done this sooner — and we’re sorry that we did not’.
This will not be the first product that Facebook has implemented an unsend feature, with Whatsapp allowing users to revoke messages to their contacts within a short time period, since last year.
What will this mean for law enforcement?
If these plans go ahead, it will undoubtedly cause havoc on law enforcement, who rely on messages sent between users, as a reliable source of evidence, whether that may be the contents of the message or the time in which the messages were sent. For example, sexual harassment victims, trying to gather proof of their ordeals, may suddenly find that all the messages that they previously had been bombarded with by their perpetrators are suddenly deleted, resulting in them not having a case against them.
If the unsend feature is put into place, it is still early doors to know just what reaction it will cause amongst the social network’s users. Perhaps, it would be unwise for the social giant to enforce a product that promotes further secrecy, when consumer trust in their services is already falling into rapid decline and there is still more information regarding the Cambridge Analytica data breach yet to come to the surface. What is certain, is that Facebook needs to start implementing some serious damage control in order to restore faith into a brand that on a surface, once promised to quite simply ‘connect’ you to your friends.