Facebook has been trying to convince its users that the platform cares about their privacy and is becoming more transparent. This makes the recent revelation that Facebook secretly deleted Mark Zuckerberg’s messages in Messenger without even notifying the recipients.
Facebook has been deleting private messages Mark sent before 2014 from the platform. Individuals who had communicated with Zuckerberg over Messenger found that all of a sudden the messages were deleted and the conversation looked one-sided and they never notified that this could happen.
Facebook users have the power to delete their sent messages, but that appears on one’s own side of the chat, currently, users have no way of deleting sent messages from the recipient’s inbox like in the WhatsApp. Upon asking Facebook for the reason, they said that the messages were deleted as a corporate security measure after the Sony hack revealed how damaging harmless messages can look when revealed to the public. However, this is not a satisfactory answer as to why users were not notified of this corporate practice.
Facebook has apologised for their behaviour and to bridge the discrepancy between the executives and user experiences, Facebook will be rolling out an unsend feature for Messanger in the coming months. Facebook also said that we are working on this change and will be available to all existing users within few months and will no longer be deleting any executive’s messages. A secret mode in Messenger which is the end-to-end encryption lets users set a timer for messages to disappear. However, the report of the executive secretly deleting seems to have accelerated the rollout of this feature to regular Messenger.
The uncertain ethics of Facebook controlling the users private messaging threads without consent, there is a question of whether the unsend feature is good or not. It could make users more eager to share vulnerable, sensitive or confidential professional messages, on the other hand it could also make users distrustful that messages they receive could disappear, leading to capturing screenshots.
It’s a disgrace the announcement is reactionary, yet it’s better late than never.