Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg thinks the future of communication is in private, encrypted services, and he's adjusting the company's historically open platform to reflect it.
For the past 15 years, Facebook and Instagram have been geared toward public sharing. Now, their leader says he anticipates future versions of Messenger and Whatsapp will be the primary ways people communicate on the network, and both will be built with end-to-end encryption. He also plans to build more ways for people and businesses to privately communicate.
"I believe a privacy-focused communications platform will become even more important than today's open platforms," Zuckerberg wrote in a lengthy Facebook post on the news. He noted that private messaging, ephemeral stories, and small groups are "by far" the fastest growing areas of online communication. While public networks will continue to be important, he acknowledged an opportunity to create a simpler platform primarily focused on privacy.
Zuckerberg outlined different ways Facebook could buckle down on privacy through feature changes; for example, private interactions and encryption. He said messages could be deleted after a month or year by default, with the option for users to set time limits on expiration. He also admitted it makes sense to limit the amount of time Facebook stores messaging metadata – and that an important part of the solution is to "collect less personal data in the first place."
He anticipated industry watchers would react to his news with skepticism: "I understand that many people don't think Facebook can or would even want to build this kind of privacy focused platform," he noted, admitting that the company doesn't have reputation for building privacy-oriented services and has always been focused on tools for open sharing.
The post reflects efforts by Facebook to readjust following a turbulent few years under the spotlight, which has caused many users to distrust the social networks' use of their data and led to several legal battles. It remains to be seen whether these promises will become reality.
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