Facebook will update its Messenger app for browsers and mobile devices with a feature allowing users to "unsend," i.e. delete their messages in the near future, a company spokesperson told TechCrunch. The news comes shortly after a report claiming Facebook co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg and some of his deputies had their messages deleted from their recipients' inboxes for "security" purposes. In a subsequent statement, a representative of the Menlo Park, California-based firm said the functionality that was never offered to regular users has been discussed in the context of a public release on "several" occasions and has now been greenlit for widespread commercialization by Facebook. "We should have done this sooner — and we're sorry that we did not," the statement reads, adding that no other messages from Mr. Zuckerberg or other Facebook officials will be deleted until the Unsend functionality becomes available to everyone.
Messenger's Secret Conversations service has been offering a similar solution since launching in August of 2016, allowing users to send ephemeral messages that disappear after a period of time they themselves determine prior to dispatching them. Manually deleting Messenger-relayed communications, even those sent through encrypted Secret Conversations without a timer, has never been possible for ordinary users. The messages from Mr. Zuckerberg and multiple Facebook executives were deleted from their regular Messenger inboxes, Facebook confirmed earlier this month. The nature of the deleted communications remains unclear, as does the timeline of the global release of the Unsend feature which "may take some time" until it's ready for a worldwide launch, according to the company. Some critics are arguing Facebook would never have debuted the functionality if its security team's decision to delete certain communications from its top officials wasn't leaked to the media, prompting the firm to attempt normalizing such behavior.
The social media juggernaut has been under fire in recent weeks after finding itself embroiled in a massive privacy scandal that saw political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica harvest data of some 87 million of its users in an improper manner, without notifying the vast majority of them. The original ordeal happened in 2014 but has only been reported in great depth last month, prompting investors to panic and lose tens of billions of dollars in market capitalization while offloading Facebook's stock. Mr. Zuckerberg is set to attend two congressional hearings on the matter later this week.