Private messages sent on Facebook by company founder Mark Zuckerberg were secretly deleted out of their recipients’ inboxes.
According to TechCrunch’s Josh Constine, three sources who had communicated with Zuckerberg over Messenger revealed that the CEO’s responses were mysteriously erased from their chat histories.
“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,” Constine writes.
The incident is raising questions given that average users are not afforded the same ability to permanently remove their own messages from Facebook’s servers.
While users can delete messages from their own chat history, the contents will still remain visible to the recipients.
In a statement to TechCrunch, Facebook, who also deleted the messages of other company executives, said the decision was made for security-related purposes.
“After Sony Pictures’ emails were hacked in 2014 we made a number of changes to protect our executives’ communications,” the statement said. “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.”
Constine notes, however, that the so-called retention period does not apply to normal users.
“That indicates Zuckerberg and other executives received special treatment in being able to pull back previously sent messages,” Constine writes.
The move by Facebook may also have been an attempt to stop any leaks of damaging comments made by their CEO.
Private messages from Zuckerberg in 2004, in which he called Facebook users “dumb fucks” for trusting him with their private information, were published online in 2010, causing widespread embarrassment for the company.
This latest incident comes as the company faces increased scrutiny in the wake of news surrounding Cambridge Analytica, a data broker which scraped the contents of more than 87 million profiles.
Facebook also announced this week that it would suspend a controversial project after it was learned the company had asked major U.S. hospitals to share anonymized patient data.