Facebook CEO Pledges To Focus On Privacy Moving Forward

It seems like every week there’s news about a new Facebook privacy violation. Facebook’s usual response to quickly clean up any mess they’ve made, maybe issue a half-hearted apology, and hope that the public moves on quickly. However, it looks like the social media giant is trying to preemptively tackle some privacy issues, at least when it comes to messaging. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has released a public letter about his “privacy-focused vision for social networking.”

Zuckerberg starts by highlighting the fact that Facebook and Instagram have made it possible for people to connect “in the digital equivalent of a town square,” but are now looking to “connect privately in the digital equivalent of the living room.”

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

Zuckerberg even acknowledges his company’s bad track record when it comes to privacy.

“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 writes. “But we’ve repeatedly shown that we can evolve to build the services that people really want, including in private messaging and stories.”

But, as usual, Zuck is focused on the future — and he believes that future “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.” His plan, then, is to build better private messaging, similar (he says) to how they’ve built out WhatsApp. While they plan on starting with messaging, the next step will be to “build more ways for people to interact on top of that, including calls, video chats, groups, stories, businesses, payments, commerce, and ultimately a platform for many other kinds of private services.”

The letter then outlines five main principles — encryption, permanence, safety, interoperability, and secure data storage — that the new platform will be built on.

“Over the next few years, we plan to rebuild more of our services around these ideas,” he writes. “The decisions we’ll face along the way will mean taking positions on important issues concerning the future of the internet. We understand there are a lot of tradeoffs to get right, and we’re committed to consulting with experts and discussing the best way forward. This will take some time, but we’re not going to develop this major change in our direction behind closed doors. We’re going to do this as openly and collaboratively as we can because many of these issues affect different parts of society.”

Facebook was built a somewhat haphazard way, fueled the explosive exponential growth that technology advancements of the early aughts and teens enabled. It’s only in the past few years that we’ve seen the true effects of that growth — and of what happens when companies aren’t regulated as they grow. Facebook has a lot to prove when it comes to user privacy, but hopefully this letter isn’t just empty words, but instead the next, grown-up stage of Facebook.

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