Old Facebook messages sent by CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other executives were deleted from recipients’ inboxes by the company, Techcrunch revealed last night. People who had corresponded with Zuckerberg, as far back as 2010, confirmed to Techcrunch that his chats have since been removed, while theirs remain.
Zuckerberg’s messages “no longer appear in their Facebook chat logs or in the files available from Facebook’s Download Your Information tool,” Techcrunch wrote.
We don’t know when Facebook decided to secretly nuke Zuckerberg’s chats, since the company never made it public. Nor did it disclose that this feature even existed. Which is why it’s fair to be suspicious of Facebook’s announcement today that it will be extending its “unsend” tool to all of us soon.
“We have discussed this feature several times,” a Facebook spokesperson told me today, when I asked whether yesterday’s revelation accelerated the launch. The company also declined to comment on when, exactly, the tool will be rolled out.
“This may take some time,” Facebook added. “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 Techcrunch report underscores how differently Facebook treats the security of its bosses versus its users. Zuckerberg, whose Twitter and LinkedIn accounts were briefly hacked in 2016, can seem paranoid about his own privacy: for example, he tapes over his laptop camera and microphone jack. But he also urges Facebook users to “follow best practices” when it comes to being safe online.
In a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, Zuckerberg commented on how he secures his personal information, and how others should, too:
Turn on two-factor authentication, change passwords regularly, don’t have your password-recovery responses be information that you made publicly available somewhere. All the basic practices, and then just look out and understand that most attacks are going to be social engineering, and not necessarily people trying to break into security systems.
It’s obnoxious, then, that while Zuckerberg preaches the merits of best practices, he also benefits from superior privacy tools made available to only him and a select few others. “Facebook knows so much about you,” he said Wednesday, “because you chose to share it with your friends and put it on your profile.” If you exercise due diligence then you’ll be fine, he seems to say. Meanwhile, the company revealed this week that 87 million people, not 50 million, likely had their data harvested by Cambridge Analytica.
We don’t know what Facebook’s new messaging tool will look like. But the company’s spokesperson said, “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,” so perhaps it will mimic this self-destruct feature. We don’t know if this is how Zuckerberg’s messages were removed.