- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg presented a new “vision” for how the social networking giant will protect members’ privacy
- Cornerstones of this approach will be to give users more control over who can communicate with them and to better encrypt data
- Facebook will also integrate its Instagram, Messenger and Whatsapp services so people can communicate more easily across the platforms
San Francisco – Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg laid out a new “privacy-focused” vision for social networking.
He promised to transform Facebook from a company known for devouring the personal information shared by its users to one that gives people more ways to communicate in truly private fashion, with their intimate thoughts and pictures shielded by encryption in ways that Facebook itself can’t read.
Zuckerberg laid out his vision in a Wednesday blog post , following a rocky two-year period in which the company has weathered a series of revelations about its leaky privacy controls. That included the sharing of personal information from as many as 87 million users with a political data-mining firm that worked for the 2016 Trump campaign.
“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,” Zuckerberg wrote. “But we’ve repeatedly shown that we can evolve to build the services that people really want, including in private messaging and stories.”
Since the 2016 election, Facebook has also taken flak for the way Russian agents used its service to target U.S. voters with divisive messages and for being a conduit for political misinformation.
Linking Facebook’s apps
As part of his effort to make amends, Zuckerberg plans to stitch together its Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram messaging services so users will be able to contact each other across all of the apps.
The multiyear plan calls for all of these apps to be encrypted so no one could see the contents of the messages except for the sender and recipients. WhatsApp already has that security feature, but Facebook’s other messaging apps don’t.
Zuckerberg likened it to being able to be in a living room behind a closed front door, and not having to worry about anyone eavesdropping. Meanwhile, Facebook and the Instagram photo app would still operate more like a town square where people can openly share whatever they want.
“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,” Zuckerberg said in his post.
Creating more ways for Facebook’s more than 2 billion users to keep things private could undermine the company’s business model, which depends on the ability to learn about the things people like and then sell ads tied to those interests.
“Zuckerberg and Facebook are trying to build a platform that caters towards more privacy and data security which is a major concern for consumers worldwide,” said Dan Ives, managing director of equity research at Wedbush Securities, in a research note. “This is a hot-button issue not just for Facebook but the rest of the tech world, and it’s a big step forward to the next evolution of messaging.”
In an interview with The Associated Press, Zuckerberg said he isn’t currently worried about denting Facebook’s profits with the increased emphasis on privacy.