New Facebook feature coming up - Unsend messages you sent earlier

A key for question for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg when he testifies before Congress next week about the Cambridge Analytica data scandal is likely to be how long the company's executives were aware of the issue before it was publicly disclosed.

"I think Facebook has not been clear enough with how to use its privacy settings", said Jamie Winterton, director of strategy for Arizona State University's Global Security Initiative. Presumably, the feature is still in testing and more changes will be added to the final version. Now some fresh new information is there which tells us that Facebook has taken a step further and has suspended the Canadian data firm AggregateIQ as well.

The aforementioned "unsend" feature has reportedly been in the works for a couple of months, with Facebook relaying the following to BGR. For those who are not aware, there is an existing feature that allows users to set messages to delete themselves after a certain period of time.

The company also said that it won't unsend or retract any more of Zuckerberg's messages, until the feature is made available to the larger audience.

Sarah Jamie Lewis, privacy and anonymity researcher and the executive director of Open Privacy said that in the secure messaging space there is a concept called transcript consistency, the idea that all participants in a conversation see and react to the same messages.

No notifications were sent to those who had messages deleted, nor was there any disclosure that such a thing was even possible. Lewis added that it is not hard to conceive of ways such a feature could be abused.

There has been no official announcement about the new delete feature, and there's a sense that Facebook is reacting to crisis after crisis in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal with slap-dash measures on an ad-hoc basis.

However, according to Facebook, more than five lakh people were potentially affected in India.

Facebook admits that the app scrapped the data of the 335 Indian Facebook users who had installed the app first and then the data of friends of these 335 Indians totaling 5,62,120 users too was stolen. Facebook has admitted that it's investigating if any other apps have similarly violated privacy of users, scraping their data and misusing it. Bravo to Facebook for being considerate of their only valuable product.' The issue on Wednesday was resolved after three hours. "This is going to be a major focus for us", Zuckerberg said.

Winterton said that for individual Facebook users, worrying about this data scraping won't do much good - after all, the data is already out there.

  • Arturo Norris