Face­book plans to let ev­ery­one un­send mes­sages, will stop Zucker­berg un­til then

Zambian Business Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

TECHCRUNCH re­ported on the night of 06 April that Face­book re­tracted Face­book mes­sages sent by Mark Zucker­berg and other ex­ec­u­tives from their re­cip­i­ents’ in­boxes. That’s an abil­ity nor­mal Face­book users don’t have. But now Face­book tells me it plans to make an “un­send” fea­ture avail­able to all users in sev­eral months, and has al­ready been con­sid­er­ing how to build this prod­uct.

Un­til the Un­send fea­ture is re­leased for ev­ery­one, Face­book says it won’t un­send or re­tract any more of Zucker­berg’s mes­sages.

The re­trac­tions of the CEO’s chats were never pre­vi­ously dis­closed un­til Face­book con­firmed the news to TechCrunch last night af­ter we re­ported hav­ing email re­ceipt ev­i­dence of mes­sages that have since dis­ap­peared. Many users are see­ing that as a breach of trust.

Re­veal­ing plans for the Un­send but­ton now could serve to dampen the back­lash by mak­ing Zucker­berg look like a beta tester of the fea­ture, and even­tu­ally nor­mal­iz­ing Un­send as a com­mon be­hav­iour.

A Face­book spokesper­son is­sued this state­ment apol­o­giz­ing for not of­fer­ing Un­send to ev­ery­one sooner and ex­plain­ing its plans: To re­cap, now six sources con­firm that Face­book mes­sages they had re­ceived from Mark Zucker­berg had dis­ap­peared from their in­boxes. When we told Face­book we had an email re­ceipt prov­ing the re­trac­tions, Face­book gave TechCrunch this state­ment: “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.”

But tam­per­ing with users’ in­boxes without dis­clo­sure has struck many users as a vi­o­la­tion of Face­book’s power. Many asked why Zucker­berg and other ex­ec­u­tives had ac­cess to func­tion­al­ity not of­fered to reg­u­lar users.

Face­book tells TechCrunch is hasn’t fi­nal­ized ex­actly how the Un­send fea­ture will work. A Face­book Mes­sen­ger spokesper­son tells me the only pos­si­ble op­tion is an ex­pi­ra­tion timer users can set on mes­sages. When the timer runs out, the mes­sage would dis­ap­pear from both their and the re­cip­i­ents’ in­boxes. They tell me this is sim­i­lar to how re­trac­tions of Zucker­berg’s mes­sages work.

Face­book al­ready of­fers a “Se­cret” en­crypted mes­sag­ing fea­ture that in­cludes an Un­send ex­pi­ra­tion timer. But this can’t be used in ex­ist­ing tra­di­tional Face­book mes­sage threads, and in­stead users have to launch a sep­a­rate “Se­cret” con­ver­sa­tion. Zucker­berg and other ex­ec­u­tives weren’t us­ing this fea­ture, and in­stead had their per­ma­nent, non-“Se­cret” mes­sages re­tracted. In­sta­gram also of­fers an Un­send op­tion in its Di­rect mes­sag­ing fea­ture, but warns that while it can re­tract sent mes­sages, the re­cip­i­ent may have al­ready read them.

But in the com­ing months, Face­book will bring ei­ther this ex­pi­ra­tion timer or an­other way to Un­send mes­sages to all Mes­sen­ger threads. Face­book didn’t have de­tails about whether re­cip­i­ents would be no­ti­fied when a mes­sage was un­sent and re­tracted from their in­boxes, whether the fea­ture would ap­ply retroac­tively to old mes­sages sent be­fore the launch or whether users would need to des­ig­nate a mes­sage as ex­pir­ing/un­send­able be­fore they send it. Be­yond the du­bi­ous ethics of Face­book ma­nip­u­lat­ing users’ pri­vate mes­sag­ing threads without con­sent or dis­clo­sure, there’s the ques­tion of whether and un­send fea­ture is good for Face­book at all. It could make users more will­ing to share vul­ner­a­ble, sen­si­tive or con­fi­den­tial pro­fes­sional mes­sages. But it also might make users para­noid that mes­sages they re­ceive could dis­ap­pear, lead­ing to anx­ious screen­shot­ting. It also could lead to abuse if users think they can send of­fen­sive con­tent then have it re­tracted shortly af­ter it’s seen.

Face­book could have an­nounced plans for the Un­send fea­ture at any time. It could have dis­closed the re­trac­tions of Zucker­berg’s mes­sages at any time. But wait­ing un­til it was con­fronted with ev­i­dence of the dele­tions and pub­lic back­lash shows Face­book is only be­ing trans­par­ent with users when forced.

“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.”

Em­bat­tled Mark Zucker­berg caught up in a data breach scan­dal that as seen Face­book shares lose im­mense value over the last weeks.

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