At first glance, the new “Mark Zuckerberg”privacy-centric view“For Facebook it seems like a transformative mission statement from a CEO under pressure to reverse years of abuse in its surveillance practices and privacy failures.
But critics say the announcement obscures Facebook’s deeper motivations: expanding lucrative new business services, continuing to monopolize users’ attention, developing new data sources to track people, and frustrating regulators who might be seeing a breakout. from the social media giant.
Facebook “wants to be the operating system of our lives,” said Siva Vaidhyanathan, director of media studies at the University of Virginia.
Zuckerberg’s plan, outlined Wednesday, expands Facebook’s commitment to private messaging, in stark contrast to its traditional focus on public exchange. Facebook would combine its WhatsApp and Instagram Direct instant messaging services with its central Messenger app so that users in one person can message people in others and expand the use of encrypted messaging to prevent strangers, including Facebook, from read the messages.
The plan also calls for the use of these messaging services to expand Facebook’s role in e-commerce and payments. A Facebook spokesperson later said it was too early to answer detailed questions about the company’s messaging plans.
Vaidhyanathan said Zuckerberg wants people to abandon person-to-person forms of communication, such as email, text messages and Apple’s iMessage, to “do everything through a Facebook product.” The ultimate goal could transform Facebook into a service like the Chinese app. WeChat, which has 1.1 billion users and includes the world’s most popular person-to-person online payment system.
In some respects, Facebook was already heading in this direction. It has dabbled in shopping features in its Messenger app for a few years, though to no avail. And WhatsApp, which Facebook acquired for $ 22 billion in 2014, adopted a robust privacy technology known as “end-to-end encryption” nearly three years ago. Messages protected in this way are protected against eavesdropping, even by the services that provide them.
But Zuckerberg said nothing in Wednesday’s blog post about reforming privacy practices at his core business, which remains data hungry. A recent Wall Street Journal report found that Facebook was still collecting personal information from apps like User heart rate and when women ovulate..
Facebook, which perfected what critics call “surveillance capitalism,” knows it has serious credibility problems. These go beyond repeated privacy lapses to include serious abuses by Russian agents, hate groups and disinformation mongers, which Zuckerberg only belatedly acknowledged.
“Until Facebook really fixes its core privacy issues, and especially given its history, it’s hard to take the turn to privacy seriously,” said Justin Brookman, who was director of research at the Federal Trade Commission before joining Consumers. Union as head of technology and privacy. in 2017
The combination of the three messaging services could allow Facebook, which today has 15 million fewer US users than in 2017, according to Edison Research – Build more complete data profiles on all your users.
Messaging services combined should generate new benefits from the metadata they collect, including information on who you send a message to, when, from where and for how long, said Frederike Kaltheuner of the privacy advocacy group. international. That’s the information users leave behind when messaging or conducting retail, travel or financial business, he added.
And Facebook doesn’t just use people’s information and activity on its platform, it dissects it to target people with personalized ads. It also keeps track of people who don’t even use the platform through small pieces of software embedded in third-party applications.
International Privacy research published in December showing that popular Android apps, including KAYAK and Yelp, were automatically sending user data directly to Facebook the moment they were launched. KAYAK, which was submitting the flight search results, stopped the practice and said the broadcast was inadvertent. Yelp continues to send unique identifiers known as “advertising IDs” that link to specific smartphones.
Facebook also has trackers that collect data about people’s online behavior on about 30 percent of the world’s websitessaid Jeremy Tillman of Ghostery, a popular ad blocker and anti-tracking software.
“When they say they are building a private messaging platform, there is nothing there to suggest that they are going to stop their data collection and their advertising-oriented business model,” he said.
In an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press, Zuckerberg did not provide details on the new sources of income. But “the overall opportunity here is much bigger than what we have built in terms of Facebook and Instagram,” he said.
Privacy advocates, however, admire a key element of Zuckerberg’s announcement.
“In the last year, I have talked to dissidents who told me that encryption is the reason why they are free or even alive,” Zuckerberg wrote.
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