Mark Zuckerberg reveals new ‘privacy-focused’ approach to Facebook

7 Mar 2019

Image: grinvalds/Depositphotos

Mark Zuckerberg has outlined a new ‘privacy-focused’ direction for Facebook that will give preference to encrypted, ephemeral messages.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has announced in a blogpost that the controversy-dogged social media site will shift its focus away from public posts to encrypted, ephemeral communications.

“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 explains. “We already see that private messaging, ephemeral stories and small groups are by far the fastest-growing areas of online communication.”

Zuckerberg noted that people prefer the “intimacy” of communicating one on one or with a tight-knit group of friends, and that people are “more cautious of having a permanent record of what they’ve shared”. While public networks will continue to be important, he added, the company aims to “build a simpler platform that’s focused on privacy first”.

This is, as Zuckerberg acknowledges, a huge digression from the mode of operating (namely, personal data harvesting) for which Facebook has become notorious. The last two years have seen the company, now one of the most valuable in the world, mired in various scandals surrounding data privacy, such as the Cambridge Analytica revelations that arose last year.

Emulating WhatsApp

In order to bring about this new private, encrypted service, Facebook will focus on secure messaging in a similar fashion to how WhatsApp was developed. Facebook will then build additional functionality – video calls, commerce, calls, groups and more – on top of that. Zuckerberg stressed that the new platform will be characterised by end-to-end encryption and more ephemeral communications.

This encryption will be enabled across Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger. Users will be able to trade cross-platform messages seamlessly, as enabled by the back-end integration that was announced in January 2019.

This new zeal surrounding privacy could be an attempt by Zuckerberg to repair years of reputational damage he and his company have incurred. However, many have been quick to point out that this could be a business opportunity – Zuckerberg frequently alludes to commerce and transaction functions within the new platform and a host of other “private services”.

Though no specific timeframe has been given for these changes, Zuckerberg notes that the company plans to rebuild Facebook “over the next few years”. It still remains to be seen whether the platform will deliver the level of privacy it promises users, but at the very least the company has now gone on record committing to it.

View of Facebook profile. Image: grinvalds/Depositphotos

Eva Short was a journalist at Silicon Republic