Facebook and the new privacy revolution

It seems to me that the new, pending reconfiguration of Facebook will bring much more user privacy, most significantly from the forthcoming integration of all of the Facebook messenging services.  More concretely, WhatsApp is way better than Facebook Messenger as it stands, so why not make Messenger more like WhatsApp?

In some ways this will mean considerable sacrifice for the company.  Facebook has been pushing through this plan for general, end-to-end encryption, even though one of the top product people at the company just resigned for exactly this reason, a very real loss to the building process.

There are inevitable trade-offs between “ability to control messages,” and “promoting user privacy.”  In the longer run I think company control of messages does not face objective standards that can command social consensus, or for that matter survive competition from less salubrious and less mainstream alternatives.  I fear also that company control of messages will evolve all too suddenly into government control, First Amendment or not.  Even with a non-activist government, a large and publicly visible company cannot help but look over its shoulder, and consider the possible regulatory or antitrust reaction from the government, when making post/not post decisions.

General encryption and thus user privacy is the right way to go.  Of course there will be public relations bumps along the way, and probably today we are seeing one of them, namely the personnel shifts.  Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg are currently in a kind of PR trap where any decision, any announcement, can and will be taken the wrong way and as a sign that some value or another simply isn’t being served the proper way.  We all know that negative news typically has more clicks and longer legs than positive news.  But if you’ve been talking about user privacy, I think this is a decision you have to favor.

You can debate whether there should be one, two, or three cheers here, but the actual reality is we are taking some pretty big steps toward truly private internet social media.


Isn't Facebook's basic business model about selling users' data? How can that change?

No, they don't sell data. They sell really good targeted advertising based on the data they collect from users.

They do sell data. Don't you remember Cambridge Analytica? They sell access to an api, which provides a lot of data.

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FB's plan is to increase the value of data they sell or rent. That's why they now talk about private, "meaningful" interactions.

I thought Facebook is not so much reconfiguring towards more privacy as *adding* more 1-to-1 private messaging capabilities. The Facebook News Feed will remain the same. This is Ben Thompson's take [https://stratechery.com/2019/facebooks-privacy-cake/]:

"this 'Privacy-Focused Vision for Social Networking' is a clear attempt to build the core of Snapchat for everyone else....Facebook is going to continue to exist as it has to date, as will Instagram, including all of the data collection and ad targeting that currently exist. The 'Privacy-Focused Vision for Social Networking' is in addition to Facebook’s current products, not in place of."

Many federated user id providers, not user privacy, is needed. A monopoly governed dictat of user privacy won't work. Federated user id providers can build local roles and rules that fit by vote and membership, not by decree. Federations can also be required to keep their decisions transparent by blockchain-like auditable change journals.

Facebook does not deserve the benefit of the doubt on this one: whatever they call "private" is not going to be what you mean by that word. If messages are encrypted in transit, it is because they control the app at both ends so they can just collect what they need there.
The private messaging app was WhatsApp and its founders walked away rather than participate in whatever FB was planning.

"Sharing is privacy". "War is peace" "Freedom is slavery" "Ignorance is strength". Or as the neo-liberals would have it, "Your ignorance is our strength". One comment below is analogous.
Glad to see lots of simple, direct contradiction of the "facebook will get better" push here. Break it up and regulate it.

For sure. The character of the leadership is well known to all of us, was present through Facebook's creation and growth, and has affected every system at the company. One doesn't take an aircraft carrier and turn it into a train station.

What's Facebook? My hot girl half my age in PH uses it, but I have no idea what it really is; she does show me cute memes and gifs from it once in a while. I did set up a Facebook account once, I migrated my pics from "MySpace" to it (remember that?! LOL I met some foreign girls though that service), but haven't kept up with it at all. I have no idea how it really works, except I started getting a lot less random "friends" when I set everything to 'private' (I still get friend requests from people I don't know). I haven't logged onto Facebook in probably close to two years, and I dropped out of the equally useless, for me, "LinkedIn".

When you're in the 1% like I am, you don't need people as much as they need you, and they'll find you if you're not on FB, if money is involved.

What some might not know is that FB has a deal with the major telecoms in PH to subsidize mobile internet usage for the reloadable SIM cards they sell to most of the population (buying a plan like one typically gets in the USA or EU, I suspect, is simply too expensive for the majority of Filipinos). For that subsidization everyone gets FB and messenger as well.

The problems with social media we worried about in the recent USA elections are significantly smaller than what they experience in the Philippines -- and FB has not been trying to do anything about it last I heard.

So FB is a tiger changing it's stripes? Dubious.

I see this as a risk reduction exercise for Facebook. While it probably hurts the best-possible-case for future value extraction, it also reduces the existential risk of consumer backlash and abandonment.

The massive disconnect between what people want and what the market and crony-corrupt government provides must be very difficult for Dr. Cowen. The Privacy Revolution? YGTBFKM.

The problem here is not that Zuck is saying bad things, but that he has a horrible track record of doing what he says. Facebook has lost a lot of people over the years because of this.

Companies can change their stripes, but they rarely do so with the same CEO. Asking Zuck to care about privacy and responsibility is like asking Elon to become a responsible adult.

Facebook saying one thing and doing another should be a bigger deal than an image problem. For example, did they let Android users know that they were logging all of their phone calls (not phone calls through Facebook messenger, ALL of their calls)? No, they didn't. But they did it anyway. How is that not punishable in the way that a hacker would be punished for doing the same thing? If you let a plumber into your house to work on your sink, and goes through your filing cabinet and takes pictures of private documents while he's in there, that's not just "Oh well, you let him into the house." Why should it be any different for Facebook?

Yesterday, Google was grilled in front of Congress for this same thing. They are tracking people's location even when they are telling them that the tracking has been turned off. How is that not fraud?

Thats right, hun. Admitting it is the first step.

How is WhatsApp better than Messenger??? It’s so ugly.

How about people who don't like Facebook, don't use Facebook?

And what is the point of a "Private Social Network"?

Reality is this privacy stuff is simply an attempt by the usual suspects to control the message. Elites really don't like it when people can see unapproved media. Of course there is some really dumb people posting crap on FB, but most people deal with it perfectly well. The left wing have always had this fear of what they call "false consciousness" caused by "wreckers" preventing the socialist paradise from becoming reality. They needed this myth because they didn't like opposition pointing out the logical flaws in their philosophy. With the final capture of most media outlets by the left, outlets like blogs and FB are the last places where you will see dissenting opinions. As Scott Alexander so sadly recently pointed out, even these outlets are becoming targeted. Free speech is all about tolerating things you absolutely disagree with, it is not about only permitting approved opinions.

'In the longer run I think company control of messages'

The 'messages' that Facebook cares about are ads and the data that comes from users of the service, which is not primarily the content of their messages. As can be seen here - 'Facebook’s Click-to-WhatsApp ads offers marketers and advertisers a way to start a conversation with consumers on its encrypted messaging app. The ads can be purchased through Facebook’s Ad Manager platform and display in a user’s Facebook News Feed. Now, in addition to messages, Click-to-WhatsApp ad campaign objectives include traffic, conversions (for website), and post engagement.

Facebook has been aiming to monetize its encrypted messaging app for some time now. In Jan. 2018, the company first launched a business app and business profiles for marketers using the WhatsApp messaging app. Facebook’s Click-to-WhatsApp ads began rolling out in August of last year, launching a pre-filled WhatsApp chat that allowed users to message a business via the app. (Advertisers running Click-to-WhatsApp ads receive metric reports in their Facebook Ads Manager dashboard tracking how many conversations were started via the ads.)

Expanding its ad offerings to WhatsApp is a logical next step for Facebook as its News Feed ad inventory continues to become more saturated. With these latest features, marketers will be able to attach specific ad objectives to the Clicks-to-WhatsApp ad campaigns — further integrating a Facebook-to-WhatsApp engagement strategy.' https://marketingland.com/facebook-adds-new-reporting-for-click-to-whatsapp-ads-254750

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