Facebook’s never-ending data privacy scandal has given birth to a brand new feature in Messenger which allows people to delete messages after they’ve been sent. The path towards this tool is pretty twisted though, making it come across more as a cover-up than a genuine effort to make its service better.
The whole controversy started when TechCrunch reported that Facebook had scrubbed out CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s messages from recipient’s inboxes. The crux of the issue is that normal users can’t do this unless they’re in a Secret Conversation window and specifically set a timer on when their messages should get deleted.
Zuckerberg’s missives were sent in the normal Messenger window. Facebook never disclosed that it had been doing so and didn’t confirm this was happening until TechCrunch showed it email receipts of the messages. People are naturally angry about this, pointing out that it’s a clear breach of trust.
Facebook is now apologizing for its latest mess, claiming that it’s discussed this ability within its circles many times. It’s now planning to make a broader delete message feature available to everyone. It’ll take some time for it to get ready, but in the meanwhile, the firm is promising not to delete any executive’s communications.
While it’s good that Facebook is taking some concrete action, it comes across as a convenient way to lessen the backlash by making it look as if Zuckerberg was just a beta tester for the tool. Plus, the brand hasn’t specified what the rules of it are going to be.
Will Facebook allow all messages, even ones which are months or years old, to disappear, or will it be more like WhatsApp and give everyone a time limit within which they can get rid of their messages. There are serious ethical questions at stake, especially if some people take advantage of it to send abusive messages and then delete the evidence.