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Facebook to focus on private communication

10 Mars 2019

Today, the social network creator penned an article via his note service - intending to lay out the groundwork for privacy focused Facebook going forward. A blog post laying out a blueprint for a "privacy-focused" company that doesn't actually exist doesn't mean much. Presumably this is all after it's finished doing everything it can to fight privacy laws.

Zuckerberg has routinely reaffirmed Facebook's commitment to privacy.

He went on to say that though Facebook hasn't exactly been renowned for building privacy-protective services, he believes it's time to start creating a service aimed at keeping messaging and stories a private matter.

In a manifesto that reads like a response to Facebook's many critics, CEO Mark Zuckerberg outlined a new focus on privacy, including a plan for encrypted messaging that would also unite communication across its various apps.

It's okay to laugh, it's hard not to. It will also open up its apps to more interoperability, so users can communicate across its networks. This shift, first announced in January, is widely seen as an attempt to pre-empt regulation that might force Facebook to spin off Instagram, WhatsApp or both.

"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". 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.

A unified back-end helps advertising, because Facebook is selling advertisers on ads in Stories, which also bridge all the apps, appearing on WhatsApp, Messenger, Instagram and Facebook.

As part of Zuckerberg's strategy, a Facebook user would be able to communicate with WhatsApp users while only having a Messenger account and vice versa.

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Despite a torrent of negative headlines and self-lacerating comments from Facebook executives about missteps, the company's stock is up 32% this year and its fiscal-fourth-quarter earnings were extraordinarily strong.

Today if you want to message people on Facebook you have to use Messenger, on Instagram you have to use Direct, and on WhatsApp, you have to use WhatsApp. And yes, some of those changes - like making end-to-end encryption more widespread - have always been requested by privacy advocates.

Just a few months prior, Facebook was in the hot seat again for giving other technology companies, like Apple and Amazon, access to user data without specifically spelling out that it would.

When it comes to storing user data, Zuckerberg says Facebook would not build data centers in countries with a track record of violating human rights like monitoring their residents online.

Zuckerberg said it is becoming more important "to keep information around for shorter periods of time" because "people want to know that what they share won't come back to hurt them later". While WhatsApp has been end-to-end encrypted for years - meaning the data is scrambled so that outsiders, and even Facebook itself, can not read the content of messages - Facebook's standalone Messenger app is not.

These challenges must have included Facebook's ongoing problems with adequately protecting their user's privacy as well as their commercial relationships with major partners.

Zuckerberg said he sees a major shift for Facebook which over 15 years has helped build what he called "the digital equivalent of a town square".

Facebook to focus on private communication