The Facebook CEO posted a long note this morning outlining his future vision for the social network that has given privacy advocates the heebie-jeebies of late.Sohini Mitter
Facebook, which has been riddled with endless controversies over the past one year, has announced that it is pivoting to a "privacy-focused" platform. In an elaborate 3,200-word note posted on Wednesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg outlined his vision towards making the 15-year-old social network more private, secure, and encrypted end-to-end.
Until now, the platform was focused on being open like a "town square", Zuckerberg noted, but now it intends to be more personal like a "living room", for instance, where people communicate either one-on-one or in small groups. "Privacy gives people the freedom to be themselves and connect more naturally, which is why we build social networks," Zuckerberg wrote.
Additionally, Facebook is working towards making user posts short-lived i.e. messages would disappear automatically after a period of time. This would be applicable for the integrated messaging product (that combines WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger) Facebook is said to be building. This platform will focus on the two Es - encryption and ephemerality.
"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. This is the future I hope we will help bring about.“
The Facebook CEO further stated that Newsfeed - the platform's core feature until now - will begin to fade away. It won't, however, cease to exist. But, a more "private" suite of Facebook features will take over.
"We plan to build this the way we've developed WhatsApp: focus on the most fundamental and private use case -- messaging -- make it as secure as possible, and then 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."
Whatever Facebook builds hereafter would focus on six aspects: private interactions, encryption, reduced permanence, safety, interoperability, and secure data storage. "Over the next few years, we plan to rebuild more of our services around these ideas. 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," Zuckerberg stated.
These "tradeoffs" include the possibility of Facebook getting banned in countries like Russia and Vietnam whose law enforcement agencies do not allow encryption, and also demand that data be stored in local servers within the country. Addressing this potential consequence, Zuckerberg said,
"Upholding this principle [encryption] may mean that our services will get blocked in some countries, or that we won’t be able to enter others anytime soon. 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.”
Facebook's pivot comes at a time when the world's largest social media network (with over 2.4 billion users) runs the risk of being banned by governments, fined by law enforcement officials, and even discarded by users whose private data has been abused and tampered with over time. Facebook's utter failure at addressing these grave issues has made it slightly unpopular in the past one year. But now, Zuckerberg wants to turn things around. Or so it seems!