In what Facebook is calling an action of protection for executive members of the company, many users have reported that Mark Zuckerberg's messages and other executives' messages have been deleted from their inboxes.
When a regular user deletes a message from their inbox, only their copy is deleted. The receiving member still retains a complete copy of the conversation. Apparently being able to hide old sent messages is now a perk of being a Facebook executive despite the fact that there is nothing in writing that discloses this ability.
A spokesperson from Facebook provided the following statement to TechCrunch on the matter.
“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.”
So far, it appears that only older messages from Facebook leadership have been deleted. Some users have reported that messages stemming from before 2014 are visible, but others have stated that theirs have been removed, making it appear as though they were talking to themselves in chat.
It is common practice for many businesses to delete old communication with employees and customers to protect the interests of both parties, but it is extremely rare that end users or clients are unable to retain their copy of communication. In this instance, Facebook controls the entire communication channel and has the ability to manage the data carefully.
With over 1.3 billion people still on Facebook, this sets a somewhat alarming precedent for how users are being treated without any forewarning of standard policies.
Removal of messages has likely been an effort to prevent the further embarrassment of high profile employees. Zuckerberg does have some famous quotes about collecting personal information that will forever haunt him, and there is no telling what private communications may have contained.