A SHIFT TO THE PRIVATE

Written by Sabrina Ng

What are the changes?

Facebook, after years of pushing and prodding for its billion of users to share just about every detail of their lives, has announced last Wednesday (27 February) that it is going to focus on building a “privacy-focused communications platform”. In a blog post by Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive laid out his new vision for social networking, stating that “privacy gives people the freedom to be themselves and connect more naturally, which is why we build social networks.”

A focus on end-to-end encryption and auto-expiring messages would be part of the new direction proposed by Zuckerberg. The proposed changes would apply not only to Facebook’s own newsfeed, but also extends to the messaging services of its three applications: WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger. A concrete timeline has yet to be set in place for the changes, but Zuckerberg promises that they will take place sometime over the next year.

What are the impacts?

Increased message encryption ensures that Facebook would not be able to access or view the messages sent by its users, indicating a shift to more intimate communications between smaller groups. Moreover, Facebook is no longer being able to keep data for a long period of time. This shift towards privacy was undoubtedly triggered by the company’s recent scandals involving issues ranging from data misuse and breaches to the hijacking of democratic elections and fueling of hate speech.

Facebook’s willingness to enact a drastic shift in core policies shows that the company is finally listening to what its users want and responding to their habits accordingly. On the flip side, such a change will make it more difficult for law enforcement agencies to carry out online surveillance efforts as well as limit the company’s ability to generate revenue through targeted advertising.

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