Facebook Aims To Become Privacy-Focused

Facebook's path to a more privacy-focused platformPhoto By: Stock Catalog/Flickr

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, said in a lengthy statement that it wants its social messaging applications to become more secure and private with the changes it aims to implement.

This sudden idea by the founder follows after Facebook spending the past two years mired in scandals around data privacy, starting with last year’s revelations involving Cambridge Analytica and continuing through the most significant data breach in the company’s history.

“I believe a privacy-focused communications platform will become even more important than today’s open platforms. Privacy gives people the freedom to be themselves and connect more naturally, which is why we build social networks,” Zuckerberg said.

It’s hard to believe that Facebook would take the more secure and private route towards its social media applications. Facebook is famous for creating tools for open sharing within its networks. It is a sharp turn to opting private from public sharing.

Moreover, Facebook has a bad reputation for building protective privacy services, which has apologized for multiple time throughout its hearing with the US Congress in the past two years.

However, in the 3,200-word statement released by Zuckerberg, he aims to mitigate issues revolving around Facebook’s ability to be trusted for secure and private connections.

Zuckerberg plans to integrate WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook  — the three social messaging apps will remain as stand-alone apps, but their technical configurations will be unified. This move will allow 2.6 billion of its combined users to communicate across applications

He says that through unifying its primary social media applications, people can have more ease with communicating with each other across applications.

Zuckerberg says, “We want to give people a choice so they can reach their friends across these networks from whichever app they prefer.”

The company aims to start with its services to become interoperable with your devices, specifically through SMS. The Android version of Messenger already allows you to send and receive SMS messages. Meanwhile, Apple doesn’t agree with this, as they have their own social messaging through iMessage.

News circulated that this move would possibly be another play for Facebook to gain massive data collection from its users.

To lighten the situation, Facebook announced along with its statement that, like WeChat, it will incorporate end-to-end encryption across its other applications.

End-to-end encryption is a powerful tool for privacy, Zuckerberg claims. Not only does it prevent other people from gaining access to your conversations, but it also allows Facebook to see what our massages contain. Ultimately, avoiding a data breach. But, this also includes privacy for people doing bad things.

In the Facebook founder’s statement, he argued that certain governments demand access to individuals’ private data information. Initially, there were two options for Facebook, either hand over the information or refuse and get arrested. With encryption, it allows a third party where they can deny and argue that the content is inaccessible.

“When billions of people use a service to connect, some of them are going to misuse it for truly terrible things like child exploitation, terrorism, and extortion. 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 says.

“Upholding this principle may mean that our services will get blocked in some countries, or that we won’t be able to enter others anytime soon,” Zuckerberg writes. “That’s a tradeoff we’re willing to make. We do not believe storing people’s data in some countries is a secure enough foundation to build such important internet infrastructure on.”

There’s a balance that Facebook needs to master with providing secure and private information, he writes. Working for its consumers and the government would be a challenge they need to tackle to push forward with its ideals.

On the other hand, a more secure exchange of communication will allow Facebook to gain people’s trust with regards to e-commerce, payments, within its service. It will be “a platform for many other kinds of private services,” he writes.

Also, Facebook aims to make most of its content ephemeral, content that people don’t need to worry about what they share coming back to hurt them later.

Zuckerberg writes that ephemeral stories are by far one of the fastest growing areas of online communication. People are more cautious about having a permanent record of what they’ve shared. 

Especially, with how today’s data are collected, we create a personal diary since we started using the platform. People have easy access to this information that we layout to the world.

As we build up large collections of messages and photos over time, they can become a liability, as well as, an asset.

With all of what Facebook promises, we need to take this with a grain of salt. It’s one thing to say something and another to deliver. The company has a history of announcing and promoting privacy-forward features and slow-rolling or canceling its actual introduction.

Facebook does not have the most stellar reputation on privacy, but at least they have taken the first steps in bringing us a new age of its digital communication—private and secure.

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