Facebook boss Zuckerberg signals ‘privacy-focussed’ change in direction

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg has said he believes secure, private messaging services will become more popular than open platforms. In a blog, Mr Zuckerberg outlined his vision to transform Facebook into a “privacy-focused platform.”

Facebook owns Messenger and WhatsApp, but message encryption limits its ability to make money through targeted adverts. The social media giant has come under fire for a series of privacy scandals.

In 2018, it emerged that the data of about 50 million users had been harvested and passed on to a political consultancy.

Some critics see the proposed changes as a way of Facebook perhaps abandoning its responsibilities, says the BBC’s North America technology reporter Dave Lee.

If what happens on Facebook is more private and temporary, he says, it may be harder to hold the site accountable for any perceived misdeeds.

“Facebook and Instagram have helped people connect with friends, communities, and interests in the digital equivalent of a town square,” said the billionaire founder of Facebook.

“But people increasingly also want to connect privately in the digital equivalent of the living room.”

In response, Mr Zuckerberg said he wanted to develop the social media network into one focused around privacy, reducing permanence and secure data storage.

As part of his privacy goals, he said Facebook would not “store sensitive data in countries with weak records on human rights like privacy and freedom of expression.”

“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,” he continued.

Mr Zuckerberg added that encrypted messaging will also create scope for new business tools, especially ones around online payments and commerce.

He did not offer a firm timeline for his vision, but said changes would take place “over the next few years”.

“I believe we should be working towards a world where people can speak privately and live freely knowing that their information will only be seen by who they want to see it and won’t all stick around forever. ”

“If we can help move the world in this direction, I will be proud of the difference we’ve made,” Mr Zuckerberg wrote.