Being the chief executive of Facebook comes with its perks — like allowing you to delete messages from someone’s inbox once you’ve already sent them.
That’s a feature CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other higher-ups enjoy that regular users don’t have, TechCrunch reported on Thursday night. Several old messages sent from Zuckerberg to employees on Messenger have been erased. When users pull up their chats with the chief exec, it now just shows a one-way conversation.
Facebook told TechCrunch this was done for security purposes.
“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,” the company said in a statement.
Only select messages were pulled back from Zuckerberg, rather than every conversation. But the ability to delete messages once they’re sent could allow Facebook to avoid embarrassing situations — like when a chat from a 19-year-old Zuckerberg leaked, where he called early Facebook adopters “dumb f—s” for sharing their data.
Deleting sent messages doesn’t appear in Facebook’s terms of service. The company typically only removes conversations that violate its community standards against attacking users for their background or sexual orientation. Other Facebook-owned apps, like Instagram and WhatsApp, allow users to pull back messages once they’re sent.
Zuckerberg will head to Washington, D.C. next week to testify before Congress on data privacy, after the company announced earlier this week that up to 87 million users were hit by the Cambridge Analytica data leak.
Update: A Facebook spokesperson told TheWrap on Friday the company is working on making the delete-message feature available to all users. Until it rolls out to the masses, Zuckerberg and other Facebook execs will not be able to use the feature anymore, the spokesperson said. In the meantime, users can opt-in to encrypted messages on Messenger.
“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,” said a Facebook spokesperson. “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.”