Facebook has been under fire for its weak security and privacy terms. The recent past has not been so great for the company and that’s why on the F8 event of 2019, Mark Zuckerberg again outlined the new “privacy-focused” vision of Facebook. This is something Mark has been talking about for the past few months. The six key principles mentioned by Mark included: interoperability, encryption, ephemerality, secure data storage, safety, and private interactions.
He detailed how Facebook-owned apps will soon work together seamlessly, and how private conversations will be a key. But somewhere Zuckerberg seemed unaware of the problems that the new plan could bring with it.
Zuckerberg explained how people can be themselves when they communicate freely in private. However, that’s not always good. The toxic communities thrive in the echo chambers of Facebook called Groups. Facebook’s new strategy “the future is private” banks on a “community review process with fairness in mind“.
Basically, it banks on the moderators to flag harmful and abusive content. That, of course, includes nudity, hate speech, misinformation, bullying, violent and harassment posts. Not to forget that Facebook is already trying to fight these with artificial intelligence. Taking all of this into account, the new privacy-focused vision can and will make it harder to trace the harmful Groups. Not only Facebook but governments, law enforcement, researchers, legal experts, and the media too will never get to know who started the bad things.
This can bring a dangerous precedent for Facebook, and this is when the company is still trying to rebuild its damaged reputation and platform.
Other than focusing on more private groups, Zuckerberg also pointed out on WhatsApp as an example of encrypted and private services. The problem, however, is that WhatsApp is good for nothing. The fact that, in 2018, misinformation spread on WhatsApp was blamed for flaming up lynchings in India is enough to understand why WhatsApp is far from perfect. Moreover, it’s not the only time the instant messaging app has been connected to such things. WhatsApp was also accused of violence in Southeast Asia.
“I know that we don’t exactly have the strongest reputation on privacy right now, to put it lightly,” Zuckerberg said, jokingly on the F8 2019. “But I’m committed to doing this well.”
How People Received the Newfound Strategy
Somewhere he failed to address how privacy-focused vision will solve the problems that have made people to not trust Facebook anymore and that demand for tougher regulation. “It seems like another Facebook diversion,” said a professor of law and internet studies at the California Western School of Law, Nancy Kim about Facebook’s strategy. “It’s intended to placate the public and probably their own employees.”
Kim said that Facebook is still trying to lure more and more people to trust its services and that’s a bigger concern. “[Zuckerberg] is trying to lure more people into disclosing more [private information],” she said. “That’s going to make them more vulnerable. When you make yourself more vulnerable, you have more data out there. You’re easier to manipulate and you’re easier to exploit.”
On the other hand, Asha Sharma, head of consumer product at Facebook Messenger, told Engadget that no matter how private a community is, Facebook will still try to remain safe for everyone with its approach. “We are working with all of the safety teams across the company, including Messenger, to make sure we do this the right way,” she said. “We also know that the community wants to be able to communicate privately. We’re going to build products in order to do that responsibly.”
Zuckerberg is concerned about its platform in general but he has to be more clear on what he plans to do next about the problems Facebook has dealt with in recent years- and particularly around Groups in general. Because his words don’t impress anymore, especially if he jokes about users’ privacy, as he did at the flagship developers conference this week.