Facebook Announces Plans to Pivot toward Privacy

Facebook Announces Plans to Pivot toward Privacy

“I believe the future of communication will increasingly shift to private, encrypted services where people can be confident what they say to each other stays secure and their messages and content won't stick around forever. This is the future I hope we will help bring about,” Zuckerberg wrote.

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg announced plans to shift the social media platform’s focus toward encryption and more short-term communication on its messaging apps.

“I believe the future of communication will increasingly shift to private, encrypted services where people can be confident what they say to each other stays secure and their messages and content won't stick around forever. This is the future I hope we will help bring about,” Zuckerberg wrote.

Zuckerberg indicated an interest in building a “simpler platform that’s focused on privacy first.” The new platform, he said, will be focused on several principles: private interactions, encryption, giving users the option to adjust the permanence of content and messages, safety, interoperability and secure data storage.

In his post, Zuckerberg said that many people use the Facebook Messenger app on Android to send and receive SMS text messages. Those texts can’t be encrypted because the SMS protocol isn’t encrypted. If Facebook integrates messaging services across its apps Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp, users would be able to send encrypted messages more easily.

"I believe working towards implementing end-to-end encryption for all private communications is the right thing to do," Zuckerberg said. However, he acknowledged the difficult line to walk between encrypting data for privacy while not enabling “the privacy of people doing bad things.”

“We have a responsibility to work with law enforcement and to help prevent these wherever we can. We are working to improve our ability to identify and stop bad actors across our apps by detecting patterns of activity or through other means, even when we can't see the content of the messages, and we will continue to invest in this work,” Zuckerberg said. “But we face an inherent tradeoff because we will never find all of the potential harm we do today when our security systems can see the messages themselves.”

According to Zuckerberg, as part of Facebook’s privacy goals, it will not “store sensitive data in countries with weak records on human rights like privacy and freedom of expression in order to protect data from being improperly accessed. […] We do not believe storing people’s data in some countries is a secure enough foundation to build such important internet infrastructure on.”

Zuckerberg acknowledged that Facebook has struggled with privacy issues, including the Cambridge Analytica data scandal and a data breach that affected 50 million users.

"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 currently have a strong reputation for building privacy protective services, and we've historically focused on tools for more open sharing," he wrote. "But we've repeatedly shown that we can evolve to build the services that people really want, including in private messaging and stories."

Zuckerberg did not offer a timeline on when Facebook would implement these changes, but indicated that “A lot of this work is in the early stages, and we are committed to consulting with experts, advocates, industry partners, and governments -- including law enforcement and regulators -- around the world to get these decisions right.”

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