“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,” wrote Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “But we’ve repeatedly shown that we can evolve to build the services that people really want, including in private messaging and stories.”
Zuckerberg recently explained his vision for Facebook moving forward. He specifically focused on privacy and security concerns for Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp. Zuckerberg said he believes the future of communication is shifting towards privacy and encryption.
Can Zuckerberg implement this vision? Can the company ensure privacy? It doesn’t exactly have a stellar track record in this area.
Privacy Issues Abound
The Cambridge Analytica scandal alone proved the company hasn’t made privacy a focus. The company’s now facing multi-billion-dollar fines from the FTC over its past privacy practices. The Washington Post reports it could dwarf the $22.5 million fine the FTC hit Google with in 2012.
Here are just a few other incidents from 2018 as detailed in The Guardian:
- 14 million posts that were supposed to be private were made public by a “glitch.”
- 30 million accounts were compromised.
- Reports that Facebook collected text messages and phone call records through apps without consent (although the company denies it).
- Facebook continues to share user data with third-party developers despite saying it stopped doing so in 2015.
LINK: The history of Facebook privacy issues (there are lots)
Zuckerberg laid out his plans as follows and make private interactions as a foundation.
Private interactions. People should have simple, intimate places where they have clear control over who can communicate with them and confidence that no one else can access what they share.
Encryption. People’s private communications should be secure. End-to-end encryption prevents anyone — including us — from seeing what people share on our services.
Reducing Permanence. People should be comfortable being themselves, and should not have to worry about what they share coming back to hurt them later. So we won’t keep messages or stories around for longer than necessary to deliver the service or longer than people want them.
Safety. People should expect that we will do everything we can to keep them safe on our services within the limits of what’s possible in an encrypted service.
Interoperability. People should be able to use any of our apps to reach their friends, and they should be able to communicate across networks easily and securely.
Secure data storage. People should expect that we won’t 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.
Key Executives Bail After Announcement
A week after the announcement and focus, two of Facebook’s top executives bailed. Chris Cox was Facebook’s Chief Product Officer and in charge of all of its apps. Chris Daniels previously headed up WhatsApp. BuzzFeed reports the departure was related to disagreements over the company’s new direction. It also reports company insiders “scoffed at the idea (encryption) and didn’t believe it could be done given the product changes and alterations to Facebook’s business model that would be required.”
An Important Change
“This is an important change as we begin the next chapter of our work building the privacy-focused social foundation for the future,” said Zuckerberg.
Zuckerberg is promising the company’s foundation will be built on privacy. What do you think?