Mark Zuckerberg Outlines New Plan to Build 'Privacy-Focused' Facebook
08 March, 2019, 03:41 | Author: Billie Castillo
We plan to build this the way we've developed WhatsApp: focus on the most fundamental and private use case - messaging - make it as secure as possible, and then build more ways for people to interact on top of that, including calls, video chats, groups, stories, businesses, payments, commerce, and ultimately a platform for many other kinds of private services. We know how valuable such information is, because documents released by the United Kingdom parliament show how Facebook used its Onavo virtual private network (VPN) app to gather usage data on competitors.
Zuckerberg said the company's messaging apps also will employ end-to-end encryption, while monitoring for illegal use like child exploitation, terrorism and extortion; Zuckerberg noted that WhatsApp already encrypts messages. Since the data is sent with a unique identifier, a user's Google advertising ID, it would be easy to link this data into a profile and paint a fine-grained picture of someone's interests, identities and daily routines. Zuckerberg also admitted some of his ambitions are years away from happening.
While those words might be seen as an oxymoron, it appears to be serious. But critics may argue Facebook is attempting to stave off any potential regulations.
Facebook shares rose 0.7 percent on Wednesday.
In his 3,200-word post, Zuckerberg promised that encryption will be one of Facebook's main pillars going forward - even going as far as to confirm Facebook will not store sensitive data in countries with weak records on human rights, like Russian Federation and China, and that upholding this core principle may mean that its services could get banned in some countries. Facebook's current model is focused on its users publicly broadcasting information about their lives to their network through photo sharing and status updates.
"I believe we should be working towards a world where people can speak privately and live freely knowing that their information will only be seen by who they want to see it and won't all stick around forever", he wrote.
Zuckerberg explained that Facebook aims to one day move from public posts to encrypted, ephemeral communications.
For example, Facebook could give users an option to have messages automatically delete after a year, month or even seconds after they're sent. It might also let you set individual messages to expire after "a few seconds or minutes".
"I understand that many people don't think Facebook can or would even want to build this kind of privacy-focused platform - because frankly we don't now have a strong reputation for building privacy-protective services", he said.
It's a serious enough problem that Facebook's gone as far as to limit users' ability to forward messages to multiple chats at once, in hopes that it will reduce the amount of misinformation being shared.
Facebook is one of the biggest global players in private messaging with its WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram, each used by more than 1 billion people. The organization also contacted Facebook and urged them to change their SDK to prevent data collection without consent. It does plan to talk with advocates, experts, and governments - including law enforcement and regulators - around the globe to "get these decisions right". But Zuckerberg said this would be an opt-in service, and users can keep their accounts separate if they prefer.
Zuckerberg may talk about the safety benefits of strong encryption, but those benefits only extend to the contents of people's messages, not the associated metadata that tells Facebook who is talking to whom, and when.
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