How to Delete Your Slack Messages

If you’re concerned about message retention, solutions are just a few clicks away


WWe’ve all typed things into Slack that we might not want our bosses to see. For me, it might have been “baby Yoda” a few dozen too many times. For employees of the suitcase company Away, it might have been valid complaints in a private Slack channel about how the company was not as progressive or inclusive as it claimed to be, according to a recent story on The Verge.

According to the story, Away employees faced a draconian Slack policy, where private communication was highly discouraged in favor of all communications being conducted in surveillable public channels. Six employees were allegedly fired from Away after CEO Steph Korey was invited into a channel where employees criticized the company. Screenshots in the story expose Korey bullying employees over Slack.

The story serves as an important reminder that if your company uses Slack, every conversation you have on the platform belongs to the company — whether that conversation is in a public or private channel. With that in mind, there are features in Slack that can help you keep your conversations private. One Slack feature in particular — retention — allows users to delete messages after a certain period of time.

The organization’s administrator can adjust Slack’s message retention settings in a few different ways. The company can decide to keep all messages, including logs of users’ edits and deletions. (A variation of this setting does not track edits and deletions.) Another retention option deletes all messages after a set amount of time, which can be as short as a day, according to the Slack website. This is also known as a rolling delete, which means messages over a certain designated age are automatically deleted.

A Slack administrator can also give all users the power to have their messages in DMs and private channels auto-delete after a certain amount of time.

If you’re an employee and use private channels, it’s worth checking out whether you can set those messages to automatically delete, in case sensitive topics are being discussed. It’s easy to do: Just navigate to the little cog icon on the upper right of a direct message or private channel. If you have the ability to do so, there will be an option called “edit message retention for #channel-name.” In that setting page, you’ll be able to either use the company’s retention policy or create your own.

Slack warns that once the allotted retention time passes, the messages will be irreversibly deleted. That might be a good thing.

If you don’t have the power to do any of these things in your company’s Slack, consider taking your conversation to Google Chat or your phone. It’s worth keeping in mind that if a conversation takes place in Slack, it may one day be public to the entire internet. That can be bad news for employees. And as we learned today, that can be bad news for CEOs, too.

Senior Writer at OneZero covering surveillance, facial recognition, DIY tech, and artificial intelligence. Previously: Qz, PopSci, and NYTimes.

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