Facebook secretly deleted messages Mark Zuckerberg sent on Messenger

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Facebook has admitted the company has been secretly deleting messages sent on Messenger by founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “After Sony Pictures’ emails were hacked in 2014 we made a number of changes to protect our executives’ communications,” says a Facebook spokesperson in a statement to TechCrunch. “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.”

Old Facebook messages sent by Zuckerberg have simply vanished in some existing threads, and TechCrunch reports that affected messages no longer appear in Facebook’s download your information tool. Recent messages from Zuckerberg reportedly remain in some users’ inboxes, and the…

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Facebook admits it deleted messages Mark Zuckerberg sent, for ‘corporate security’

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TechCrunch reports that Facebook wiped messages that CEO Mark Zuckerberg sent to former employees, as well as people outside the company, from those recipients’ inboxes. The company cited ‘corporate security’ as its reasoning for the move, but it’s never publicly disclosed that it cleared Zuckerberg’s messages out of those conversations. In a statement which mentions the Sony Pictures hack that saw the film production company’s unreleased movies and confidential documents exposed, it explained: 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…

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Facebook retracted Zuckerberg’s messages from recipients’ inboxes

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You can’t remove Facebook messages from the inboxes of people you sent them to, but Facebook did that for Mark Zuckerberg and other executives. Three sources confirm to TechCrunch that old Facebook messages they received from Zuckerberg have disappeared from their Facebook inboxes, while their own replies to him conspiculously remain. An email receipt of a Facebook message from 2010 reviewed by TechCrunch proves Zuckerberg sent people messages that no longer appear in their Facebook chat logs or in the files available from Facebook’s Download Your Information tool.

When asked by TechCrunch about the situation, Facebook claimed it was done for corporate security in 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.”

However, Facebook never publicly disclosed the removal of messages from users’ inboxes, nor privately informed the recipients. That raises the question of whether this was a breach of user trust. When asked that question directly over Messenger, Zuckerberg declined to provide a statement.

Tampering With Users’ Inboxes

A Facebook spokesperson confirmed to TechCrunch that users can only delete messages their own inboxes, and that they would still show up in the recipient’s thread. There appears to be no “retention period” for normal users’ messages, as my inbox shows messages from as early as 2005. That indicates Zuckerberg and other executives received special treatment in being able to pull back previously sent messages.

Facebook chats sent by Zuckerberg from several years ago or older were missing from the inboxes of both former employees and non-employees. What’s left makes it look the recipients were talking to themselves, as only their side of back-and-forth conversations with Zuckerberg still appear. Three sources asked to remain anonymous out of fear of angering Zuckerberg or burning bridges with the company.

[Update: Recent messages from Zuckerberg remain in users’ inboxes. Old messages from before 2014 still appear to some users, indicating the retraction did not apply to all chats the CEO sent. But more sources have come forward since publication, saying theirs disappeared as well.]

None of Facebook’s terms of service appear to give it the right to remove content from users’ accounts unless it violates the company’s community standards. While it’s somewhat standard for corporations to have data retention policies that see them delete emails or other messages from their own accounts that were sent by employees, they typically can’t remove the messages from the accounts of recipients outside the company. It’s rare that these companies own the communication channel itself and therefore host both sides of messages as Facebook does in this case, which potentially warrants a different course of action with more transparency than quietly retracting the messages.

Facebook’s power to tamper with users’ private message threads could alarm some. The issue is amplified by the fact that Facebook Messenger now has 1.3 billion users, making it one of the most popular communication utilities in the world.

Zuckerberg is known to have a team that helps him run his Facebook profile, with some special abilities for managing his 105 million followers and constant requests for his attention. For example, Zuckerberg’s profile doesn’t show a button to add him as a friend on desktop, and the button is grayed out and disabled on mobile. But the ability to change the messaging inboxes of other users is far more concerning.

Facebook may have sought to prevent leaks of sensitive corporate communications. Following the Sony hack, emails of Sony’s president Michael Lynton who sat on Snap Inc’s board were exposed, revealing secret acquisitions and strategy.

Mark Zuckerberg during the early days of Facebook

However, Facebook may have also looked to thwart the publication of potentially embarrassing personal messages sent by Zuckerberg or other executives. In 2010, Silicon Valley Insider published now-infamous instant messages from a 19-year-old Zuckerberg to a friend shortly after starting The Facebook in 2004. “yea so if you ever need info about anyone at harvard . . . just ask . . . i have over 4000 emails, pictures, addresses, sns” Zuckerberg wrote to a friend. “what!? how’d you manage that one?” they asked. “people just submitted it . .  i don’t know why . . . they “trust me” . . . dumb fucks” Zuckerberg explained.

The New Yorker later confirmed the messages with Zuckerberg, who told the publication he “absolutely” regretted them. “If you’re going to go on to build a service that is influential and that a lot of people rely on, then you need to be mature, right? I think I’ve grown and learned a lot” said Zuckerberg.

If the goal of Facebook’s security team was to keep a hacker from accessing the accounts of executives and therefore all of their messages, they could have merely been deleted on their side the way any Facebook user is free to do, without them disappearing from the various recipients’ inboxes. If Facebook believed it needed to remove the messages entirely from its servers in case the company’s backend systems we breached, a disclosure of some kind seems reasonable.

Now as Facebook encounters increased scrutiny regarding how it treats users’ data in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the retractions could become a bigger issue. Zuckerberg is slated to speak in front of the U.S. Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees on April 10 as well as the House Energy and Commerce Committee on April 11. They could request more information about Facebook removing messages or other data from users’ accounts without their consent. While Facebook is trying to convey that it understands its responsibilities, the black mark left on public opinion by past behavior may prove permanent.

If you have more info on this situation, including evidence of messages from other Facebook executives disappearing, please contact this article’s author Josh Constine via open Twitter DMs, josh@techcrunch.com, or encrypted Signal chat at (585)750-5674.

For more on Facebook’s recent troubles, read our feature pieces:

 

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Facebook Admits It Scans Your Conversations on Messenger

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Facebook’s automated systems scan the photos and links you send or receive via Messenger, the social media giant confirmed this week. The company confirmed the practice to Bloomberg on Thursday, after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg hinted at the policy in a separate interview this week. To be clear, Facebook says Messenger conversations are still private, but it […]
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Facebook fined $33 million for failing to help Brazilian authorities 

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Facebook has had a contentious relationship with Brazilian authorities, and its WhatsApp messenger has suffered multiple service bans for failing to cooperate. Two years ago, a court froze around $ 6 million of the company's cash after it didn't hand…
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Facebook hits the brakes on creepy project to access your patient data from hospitals

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Facebook has been in recent talks with several high profile US hospitals in an attempt to glean anonymized patient data for a now-defunct project. The company aimed to collect obscured personal details — including illness and prescription info — in an attempt to match it with user data it collected by the social network. The goal, reportedly, was to help hospitals figure out which patients might need special care or treatment, according to CNBC. The news comes amid growing concerns that the social network isn’t taking the steps needed to secure its users from over-zealous third parties — and often…

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Surprise! Quitting Facebook Could Be Bad for You.

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Grab your pitchfork, fellow human. We have a new villain to run out of town, and its name is Facebook. It’s selling our data, monitoring our phone calls, and, perhaps worst of all, doesn’t even seem to feel that bad about it.

But before you set your torch ablaze delete Facebook, let’s take a beat. Is the platform really a toxic monster? Or perhaps more of a misunderstood beneficial beast?

Let’s ask science.

Last month, The Journal of Social Psychology published a study exploring the relationship between Facebook and stress. Using 138 active Facebook users as their guinea pigs, researchers from the University of Queensland found that taking a five-day break from the platform lowered levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Ready to hit that delete button? Not so fast.

“[W]hile participants in our study showed an improvement in physiological stress by giving up Facebook, they also reported lower feelings of well-being,” lead researcher Eric Vanman said in a press release. “People said they felt more unsatisfied with their life and were looking forward to resuming their Facebook activity.”

And those lower cortisol levels? Participants didn’t even notice, reporting that they felt just as stressed as they did before quitting Facebook temporarily.

In some instances, using Facebook can actually help you cope with stress.

That’s according to a study the journal Computers in Human Behavior published in May 2017. Northwestern University researcher Renwen Zhang surveyed 560 Facebook-using university students, focusing on their use of Facebook to disclose information about stressful events in their lives.

Zhang concluded that opening up on Facebook helped the students mentally cope with stressful situations. When the students shared information, they were likely to get support from their Facebook friends in the form of encouragement, advice, or offers of help. This, in turn, made them feel supported, more satisfied with life, and less depressed.

Quitting Facebook means saying goodbye to all those digital hugs that can help you get through your latest breakup or crappy day at work.

So, how do Facebook’s scientifically supported benefits stack up against its drawbacks? Well, there are the aforementioned privacy issues to consider, plus the damage the platform can do to our health, IRL relationships, self-esteemintelligence, overall well-being… We could go on and on.

On second thought, maybe it is time to grab your pitchfork. Or, at least, don’t extinguish the flaming torches just yet.

The post Surprise! Quitting Facebook Could Be Bad for You. appeared first on Futurism.

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Facebook wanted users’ medical data for a research project

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CNBC reports today that Facebook was recently designing a research project that would match users' Facebook data with their medical information. The project has since been halted, but the company had approached a number of health organizations includ…
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