Facebook is having a tough time of late with all the revelations around their use of customer data and lack of consideration towards privacy, confidentiality and even security. It’s something which Facebook is not the only guilty party in, but as the dominant player in the social media
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. Today we already see that private messaging, ephemeral stories, and small groups are by far the fastest growing areas of online communication.
This focus doesn’t spell the end of the very public Facebook or Instagram sites, which Zuckerberg still believes have a place in society, but that with privacy being a major drive now, he wants to ensure this is the main focus of the business and believes that the world is moving more in this direction. This likely won’t mean too many new products for Facebook, though could mean that we could see even more significant changes to the security on their WhatsApp and Messenger platforms and also how direct messages in both Facebook and Instagram are integrated into these security methods. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if WhatsApp, which does feature point-to-point encryption, would become the defacto messaging platform across all of Facebook’s apps.
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.
I will be the first to acknowledge that it’s hard to believe Zuckerberg’s word that the company will keep its user data confidential. After all, Facebook has grown to the behemoth it is because of his disregard for certain business ethics and lack of oversight in the business as a whole, but perhaps with shareholder and board pressure, we may finally be seeing a new dawn at Facebook.
Perhaps the biggest message signalling his change of direction in this regard is the willingness to now pursue privacy over profit and be willing to see the company banned from those who don’t want to conform to this. Something which could see a tricky balance with law enforcement agencies and something which they are still trying to work out:
Upholding this principle 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 trade-off 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.
We have a responsibility to work with law enforcement and to help prevent these wherever we can. We are working to improve our ability to identify and stop bad actors across our apps by detecting patterns of activity or through other means, even when we can’t see the content of the messages, and we will continue to invest in this work. But we face an inherent trade-off because we will never find all of the potential harm we do today when our security systems can see the messages themselves.
I doubt this new announcement will convince more people to return to the company’s social media platforms. Still, with the company having such a large dominance of the market, if they can at least keep a large portion of their user base happy and truly turn over a new leaf, they could easily secure themselves for continued future success.
Last Updated: March 7, 2019