This Facebook post will self-destruct in 5 seconds.

Well, ok, maybe not 5 seconds. But your latest Facebook post could soon be gone in a timescale chosen by you (well, ok, anywhere between 1 hour and a week).

A small number of users spotted the new feature in a Facebook iOS app earlier this week which allows users to set a deletion date at the time they create a new post.

A Facebook spokesperson confirmed the existence of the trial feature, saying:

“We’re running a small pilot of a feature on Facebook for iOS that lets people schedule deletion of their posts in advance.”

Small scale trials of new features are nothing new for the social networking giant which is constantly looking to evolve. Facebook users will be grateful, however, that this one is not as secret as say, testing how users react to positive and negative news, the secret emotion experiment which recently surfaced and did little to enhance the reputation of a company which many fail to equate with privacy protections.

That said, Facebook may be learning what its users want, as evidenced by the recent addition of the ‘privacy dinosaur’ aka the new privacy checkup tool.

So, that means all users will be able to self-destruct all of their postings in the future, wiping them off Facebook’s servers for ever more, right?

Well, before you see Facebook as a means for posting questionable or sensitive content, you may wish to consider the fact that the answer to that question is not clear – it looks like the removal from a user’s timeline will be permanent but I’d be very surprised if Facebook would want to let anything fall off its own servers (we know it keeps a record of anything typed into the status box, regardless of whether the user subsequently decides to publish it or not, for example).

Then of course there is the fact that virtually nothing shared on the web is private ever again anyway – the kids of today ain’t half bright you know and they can take screenshots and everything.

So before you even start contemplating using Facebook’s potential new service, or the Slingshot app, or Snapchat to post something you otherwise may have kept to yourself (or should have) remember that nothing that is published can be unpublished and privacy can sometimes be an illusion. Or, as my boyhood hero Michael Praed would say, “Nothing is forgotten. Nothing is ever forgotten.”

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