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Facebook Messenger's 'Unsend' Feature Is What Happens When You Scramble

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Next week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will testify before Congress about his company's failure to prevent the data firm Cambridge Analytica[1] from siphoning off information belonging to up to 87 million people[2], the majority of whom are believed to be Americans. In the lead-up to the hearings, the social network has scrambled to respond to increased scrutiny from journalists and the public over its privacy practices.

Steps like overhauling its entire privacy settings menu[3] are a clear benefit. But in other areas, Facebook's hurry to respond to criticism has resulted in features that could have potentially negative consequences for users.

On Thursday evening for example, TechCrunch[4] reported that Mark Zuckerberg and other top Facebook executives can delete old messages on Messenger, a feature not available to anyone else. Facebook says the feature exists for corporate security reasons related to the 2014 Sony hack[5], but it still feels elitist, especially in light of broader critiques of the company's privacy practices.

'Cause-and-effect can get muddled or lost entirely.'

Sarah Jamie Lewis, Open Privacy

In order to avoid sustained backlash, Facebook quickly moved[6] to announce that an "unsend" feature would roll out to all users in the next several months. Facebook says Zuckerberg and other executives won't use it until everyone else can, too. Messenger's end-to-end encrypted setting[7] also already has the ability to set messages to delete after a specified amount of time. "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," Facebook spokesperson Elka Looks

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