Last April, TechCrunch revealed that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had used his executive power to remove his own messages sent in the Messenger app, an option that regular users don’t normally have at their disposal. Following the report, Facebook scrambled to make good and said we’d all soon have delete powers in the messaging app and today that feature is rolling out—sort of.
If you open Messenger on your phone and press down on a message, you’ll get an option to delete it. This is very misleading. “Delete” only deletes the message in your own inbox. The recipient still has that accidental picture or ill-advised joke still sitting in their inbox and you may not even be aware of it. Most importantly, for Facebook, that message still remains on its servers. But TechCrunch found that Zuckerberg had gone back as far as 2010 to unsend some of his own messages, including messages sent to non-Facebook employees.
Facebook recognized that it was giving its top executive privacy options that weren’t available to users and promised to add “a broader delete message feature” to the Messenger app. At the time, a Facebook spokesperson told Gizmodo that until that feature was ready, it would “no longer be deleting any executives’ messages.”
On Tuesday, Facebook announced that the new unsend option is currently rolling out to the Messenger app on Android and iOS. All you’ll have to do is tap the message you want to delete and select “Remove for Everyone” within ten minutes of sending a message. Gizmodo attempted to test the feature on two updated iPhones, but it wasn’t available for us yet. A Facebook representative told us that it’s still rolling out on the app stores and to give it some time.
Mark Zuckerberg wasn’t restricted to a ten-minute window, but when we asked Facebook if all executives will be held to the same restrictions as users we were told that the change will apply to everyone including Facebook employees. A representative also confirmed that deleted messages will eventually be removed from Facebook’s servers permanently, but it will be retained for “a limited amount of time” just in case someone wants to report abuse.
Messenger does have a secret message feature that has an option to delete messages based on a timer, but it can only be enabled for individual conversations.
It seems Facebook is handling the removal of messages from its servers just right, but it’s almost comical that it won’t just give everyone the option to delete their own communications any time they like. The social network has one of the worst reputations for privacy in the corporate world, and it won’t give an inch when it comes to possibly losing what would likely be a minuscule amount of data.