Facebook has been in the limelight as of late, but not due to positivity. In fact, it’s been scandal after scandal that has bolstered the company to grab the attention of everyone from major news networks to local newspapers. Now, CEO and founder Marck Zuckerberg is making headlines yet again with a bold claim that revolves around your privacy on his platform.
According to Zuckerberg, Facebook will be making a major shift from its current public stance and pivot more towards private social engagement. “As I think about the future of the internet, I believe a privacy-focused communications platform will become even more important than today’s open platforms,” he wrote in a 3,200-word blog post. “Privacy gives people the freedom to be themselves and connect more naturally, which is why we build social networks.”
We saw our first indication of the company’s plans when Facebook confirmed it would merge the underlying technology beneath WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram Direct so users could message each other cross-platform. This system will be encrypted from end-to-end when it rolls out, and Zuckerberg expects it to become one of the main ways we communicate over the internet.
In a few years, I expect future versions of Messenger and WhatsApp to become the main ways people communicate on the Facebook network. We’re focused on making both of these apps faster, simpler, more private and more secure, including with end-to-end encryption. We then plan to add more ways to interact privately with your friends, groups, and businesses. If this evolution is successful, interacting with your friends and family across the Facebook network will become a fundamentally more private experience.
Zuckerberg also notes how Facebook wants to integrate SMS into this system to make cross-platform communication truly seamless. However, this ambition comes with a fair share of quibbles that the company can’t seem to get over.
You can already send and receive SMS texts through Messenger on Android today, and we’d like to extend this further in the future, perhaps including the new telecom RCS standard. However, there are several issues we’ll need to work through before this will be possible. First, Apple doesn’t allow apps to interoperate with SMS on their devices, so we’d only be able to do this on Android. Second, we’d need to make sure interoperability doesn’t compromise the expectation of encryption that people already have using WhatsApp. Finally, it would create safety and spam vulnerabilities in an encrypted system to let people send messages from unknown apps where our safety and security systems couldn’t see the patterns of activity.
In the future, Zuckerberg hopes Facebook will be able to implement this to “give people more choice to use their preferred service to securely reach the people they want.”
But as always, Zuckerberg wants to take the company’s ambitions and turn it into a business. That’s why he notes in his post that with these encrypted communication tools, businesses will be able to utilize new services specifically focused on payments and commerce.
We plan to build this the way we’ve developed WhatsApp: focus on the most fundamental and private use case — messaging — make it as secure as possible, and then build more ways for people to interact on top of that, including calls, video chats, groups, stories, businesses, payments, commerce, and ultimately a platform for many other kinds of private services.
Of course, with a move like this, Facebook is bound to be met with legal ramifications from both law makers and countries as wholes. In some areas of the world, Facebook may even be blocked from operating. But as it turns out, Zuckerberg is completely fine with this, essentially saying the pros outweigh the cons.
Upholding this principle may mean that our services will get blocked in some countries, or that we won’t be able to enter others anytime soon. That’s a tradeoff we’re willing to make. We do not believe storing people’s data in some countries is a secure enough foundation to build such important internet infrastructure on.
With so many changes that need to take place, there’s a really good chance we won’t see anything of them go into full effect for quite some time. Zuckerberg notes his blog post is essentially a peak at Facebook’s multi-year road map that will evolve over time. Therefore, expect plenty of updates in this regard as more details begin to unravel.