Facebook scrambling to explain why Zuckerberg could pluck his messages out of other people’s inboxes

Facebook scrambling to explain why Zuckerberg could pluck his messages out of other people’s inboxes
Facebook used a secret tool to delete messages from CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and other executives' accounts. The average person can't delete their messages from someone else's inbox. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Facebook is scrambling again after Tech Crunch reported that the social media giant has been using a secret tool to pluck messages sent by CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and other company executives from people’s inboxes.

Six sources confirmed to the news outlet that they had received messages from Zuckerberg that later disappeared, leaving them with one-side of a two-sided conversation in their Messenger inbox.

That feature is not available for the average Joe Schmoe. If you send a message to someone, they can keep it forever or until they choose to delete the thread and vice versa, but users can’t delete their messages from someone else’s inbox.

What’s the problem?

Facebook’s terms of service don’t appear to give someone permission to remove content from another person’s account.

Some Facebook users are angry because of the company’s lack of transparency and for not offering the tool to all users.

What does Facebook say?

Facebook claims it was a security feature for the executives that it initiated after hackers accessed Sony Pictures emails in 2014.

But tampering with messages in users inboxes without their knowledge appears to be a violation of Facebook’s power.

In a statement to Tech Crunch, a spokesperson apologized for not offering the unsend features to all users and explains its plans.

“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.”

The company hasn’t indicated how the new feature would work or when it would be available on all Messenger threads.

What else?

There is already a conversation feature that allows senders to set an expiration timer that permanently deletes the message from the sender and the recipient’s inboxes but it only works when the “secret” message is launched.