Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg unleashed a 3,000-word manifesto on privacy today via his personal Facebook account. In so doing he revealed the six key principles behind his new “privacy-focused vision for social networking.”
The six principles:
- Private interaction
- Encryption and safety
- Reducing permanence
- Secure data storage
These principles won’t be entirely embodied in Facebook products immediately, but will serve as guideposts for product development over the next few years, Zuckerberg says. But that development won’t all happen in private.
“This will take some time, but we’re not going to develop this major change in our direction behind closed doors,” Zuckerberg said. “We’re going to do this as openly and collaboratively as we can because many of these issues affect different parts of society.”
Zuckerberg says that public sharing on Facebook will likely decline over the next few years as private messaging via Messenger or WhatsApp becomes the “main ways people communicate on the Facebook network.”
This is more intimate communication, and Zuckerberg expects that being social via Facebook will, in the future, be a more private, small-group and one-on-one affair.
Encryption and safety
Governments often make “unlawful demands” for data, Zuckerberg says, so Facebook intends to enable end-to-end encryption across all messaging apps.
That will limit what Facebook can see as well, and limit Facebook’s ability to target advertising in its messaging services. It will also lead to some dicy legal situations.
“This may seem extreme, but we’ve had a case where one of our employees was actually jailed for not providing access to someone’s private information even though we couldn’t access it since it was encrypted,” says Zuckerberg.
However, encryption also opens the door for misuse by criminals and terrorists. So Zuckerberg is open to working with governments, police, and other platforms to find ways to implement safety mechanisms.
How that happens in an end-to-end encryption world remains to be seen.
None of us want our juvenilia to be used to judge us today as we apply for jobs or seek a mate. So Zuckerberg plans to build more ways for photos and posts and videos to expire over time.
This, by the way, would also reduce the storage requirements of a massive billion-plus-people social network, which must be simply immense, especially with the addition of video.
We’ve recently heard that Facebook intends to merge Messenger and WhatsApp in some way. Zuckerberg said today that interoperability is the method: enabling people to message others in whatever way they want, regardless of platform.
That includes SMS, but clearly, Zuckerberg is only thinking about platforms that Facebook controls or are open systems like SMS. There’s no discussion of interoperability with other social platforms or messaging apps.
Secure data storage
Facebook doesn’t store data in countries where governments are overly intrusive, Zuckerberg says. And the company plans to redouble its efforts to securely store data.
Of course, this does not address the fact that most of Facebook’s private data leakage over the past few years was built in by design … either for ad targeting, delivery of Facebook services to other platforms, or for ill-conceived ideas of making every site and app social with a layer of Facebook social utility. Which, of course, ended up with Cambridge Analytica.
Facebook’s next steps
Ultimately, Zuckerberg says, the goal is safe and private communications and social experiences. However, this is an uphill battle because, as he acknowledges, Facebook does not “currently have a strong reputation for building privacy protective services.”
Time will tell if the company can reverse that perception.