Facebook’s data privacy movements – a major turn-aound?
The fact that Facebook has become the most powerful social network in history surely cannot be questioned. But Mark Zuckerberg now seems to be saying Facebook’s future lies somewhere else.
This week, Zuckerberg suggested that Facebook no longer wants to considered a “digital town square,” but rather, a “digital living room” for secure, private communications. This could represent a major transformation on the company’s standpoint on privacy.
Zuckerberg’s announcement is certainly causing some head-scratching among analysts,. regarding the implications for Facebook’s future ad-supported business model, as well as on increasing pressure to weed out odious content and misleading information.
George Washington University professor, Henry Farrell, wrote in the Washington Post:
Should this ambition be realized, it is nothing less than an epochal shift in Facebook’s business model,
Farrell added that by making more communications private and encrypted…
“…it makes some kinds of political manipulation harder to carry off at a wide scale, …However, it also means, obviously, that government authorities will not be able to see what people are saying to one another.”
Farrell argues that Zuckerberg “isn’t just changing course because he was pushed. He is also being pulled by new opportunities, which might provide a more politically sustainable business model.” As yet, Facebook’s new business model has not been fully defined. The company could potentially move into payments and other ecommerce services by utilizing its messaging applications.
Interestingly, Zuckerberg’s announcement overlooked his plan to offer new services on a privacy-based platform. Reportedly, he proposed to “build more ways for people to interact” with “video chats, groups, stories, businesses, payments, commerce, and ultimately a platform for many other kinds of private services.”
Smoke and mirrors?
According to MailOnline, critics say Facebook’s announcement is an effort to deflect attention away from its growing role in public discourse. Some analysts argue that Facebook’s move is a headfake designed to deflect attention away from its growing influence over public discourse.
“Underneath it all, very little is going to change,” said Richard Windsor, a technology analyst who writes the Radio Free Mobile blog, describing the shift as a “smokescreen.”
“This is because a pivot towards becoming a fully private and encrypted communication system looks like suicide as with no data Facebook would have no advertising to sell.”
Alex Stamos, a former Facebook chief security officer who is now on the Stanford University faculty, meanwhile called Zuckerberg’s announcement a “judo move” which addresses several challenges for the social network.
Right now FB gets crap (from the same people) for both invading people’s privacy and not policing communications enough, …In a world where everything is encrypted and doesn’t last long, entire classes of scandal are invisible to the media.
Facebook’s move comes with US lawmakers mulling new regulations for internet platforms which could end the liability protections for content posted by third parties, and with tough data protection regulations in Europe which in some cases require removal of inappropriate content within hours.
To comply with these requirements, Facebook has hired some 20,000 moderators around the world, but still faces a daunting task in removing content from billions of users in dozens of languages.
The new focus “could privilege privacy but undercut things like content moderation,” said Daniel Kreiss, a University of North Carolina professor of communication.
“A move in this direction would let them entirely wash their hands of any editorial or role for content… fake news, hate speech, defamation.”
Tech analyst and blogger, Ben Thompson, said the shift “makes perfect sense for Facebook: this is a privacy cake that Facebook can have — and eat it too.”
Thompson said Facebook is likely to keep its data collection and advertising business in place while moving into the new private communications space as it moves against rivals like Snapchat.