Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has addressed privacy concerns surrounding the company's use of data by announcing in a new blog post that it will increasingly shift away from public posts and instead move toward encrypted, ephemeral communications on its messaging apps.
Zuckerberg stated that encryption will be one of the key strategies of the social media giant's future, using "a simpler platform that's focused on privacy first".
He added that he believes public social networks will continue to be "very important" to people because of their power to connect individuals, but that the way people want to use them has changed.
"Today we already see that private messaging, ephemeral stories and small groups are by far the fastest growing areas of online communication," Zuckerberg wrote. "There are a number of reasons for this. Many people prefer the intimacy of communicating one-on-one or with just a few friends. People are more cautious of having a permanent record of what they've shared. And we all expect to be able to do things like payments privately and securely."
To achieve this new goal, Zuckerberg explained, Facebook's messaging platforms will change to look more like WhatsApp and will be built around several principles: Private interactions, encryption, reducing permanence, safety, interoperability and secure data storage.
Addressing Facebook's role in advertising for a number of companies, he added that the encrypted messaging tools will create room for new business tools, specifically in the payments and commerce sector.
The move marks a U-turn in Facebook's business model, which critics argue has been built around selling private data off to the highest bidder. This was highlighted during the Cambridge Analytica scandal which broke in March 2018 and revealed that the personal data of 50 million Facebook profiles had been harvested without the knowledge of the users.
Despite Zuckerberg attempting to display that Facebook has 'learnt its lesson' in regard to privacy, it has already faced heavy criticism for the length of time it took to respond.
1) This isn't a post I expected to read, and I wish he wrote it two years ago. Hopefully the external vision is reflected in internal moves to change product culture that informs thousands of product and engineering decisions per year. Turning a ship that large is difficult.
— Alex Stamos (@alexstamos) 6 March 2019
It has also been criticized for not addressing issues that have stemmed from WhatsApp's platform.
So FB is going to move to private, encrypted, ephemeral communications -- i.e, Snapchat. But much of the hate and violence in Myanmar, India etc. was spread via private and encrypted WhatsApp. Does that absolve FB of responsibility? https://t.co/uAN4X8v4NQ
— Mathew Ingram (@mathewi) 6 March 2019