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Know Mark Zuckerberg’s New ‘Privacy Vision’ for Facebook

Facebook entrenches its competitive position in messaging and uses it to develop new sources of user data to feed its voracious advertising machine

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Facebook offers a chance for audiences to experiment and express themselves through music and share the same with their friends. Pixabay

Mark Zuckerberg’s abrupt Wednesday declaration of a new “privacy vision” for social networking was for many people a sort of Rorschach test.

Looked at one way, the manifesto read as an apology of sorts for Facebook’s history of privacy transgressions, and it suggested that the social network would de-emphasize its huge public social network in favor of private messaging between individuals and among small groups.

Looked at another way, it turned Facebook into a kind of privacy champion by embracing encrypted messaging that’s shielded from prying eyes — including those of Facebook itself.

Yet another reading suggested the whole thing was a public relations exercise designed to lull its users while Facebook entrenches its competitive position in messaging and uses it to develop new sources of user data to feed its voracious advertising machine.

As with many things Facebook, the truth lies somewhere in between. Facebook so far isn’t elaborating much on Zuckerberg’s manifesto. Here’s a guide to what we know at the moment about its plans.

What’s happening to Facebook?

In one sense, nothing. Its existing social network, with its news feeds and pages and 2.3 billion global users and $22 billion in 2018 profit, won’t change and will likely continue to grow. Although user growth has been stagnant in North America, Facebook’s global user base expanded 9 percent in the last quarter of 2018.

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FILE – The WhatsApp icon is seen on a smartphone in this picture illustration, in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. VOA

But Zuckerberg suggested that Facebook’s future growth will depend more on private messaging such as what it offers with its WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram Direct services. The Facebook CEO said private messaging between individuals and small groups is “by far” the fastest growing part of online communications.

Naturally, Facebook wants to be there in a big way.

What’s changing in messaging?

Its first step will be to make its three messaging services communicate better with each other. That would let you message a friend on WhatsApp from Facebook Messenger, which isn’t currently possible. It would also link your messaging accounts to your Facebook ID, so people can find you more easily.

Zuckerberg also promised to greatly increase the security of these messages. It will implement so-called end-to-end encryption for messaging, which would scramble them so that no one but the sender and recipients could read them. That would bar access by governments and Facebook. WhatsApp is already encrypted this way, but Messenger and Instagram Direct are not.

The first change users might notice is their address book, said Siva Vaidhyanathan, director of the Center for Media and Citizenship at the University of Virginia. While your Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp contacts might be quite different now, if the services combine to some degree, your contact lists will, too.

“As these services merge, we might end up basically having these huge combined address books from three messaging services,” he said.

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FILE- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers the keynote speech at F8, Facebook’s developer conference, in San Jose, Calif., May 1, 2018. VOA

When will this happen?

You’re not likely to see any of these changes soon. In his blog post, Zuckerberg said the plan will be rolled out “over the next few years. … A lot of this work is in the early stages.”

And it’s subject to change. EMarketer analyst Debra Aho Williamson points out that previous Facebook visions of the future haven’t quite panned out. A few years ago, for instance, Zuckerberg predicted that video and augmented and virtual reality would be a much bigger part of Facebook than what materialized.

But it shows that Facebook is trying to adapt as people shift toward services like Instagram and WhatsApp over Facebook, which today has 15 million fewer U.S. users than in 2017, according to Edison Research. In his post, Zuckerberg said he expects Messenger and WhatsApp will eventually become the main ways people communicate on Facebook’s network.

“There’s not a sense that things will fundamentally change overnight, or even probably this year,” Williamson said, “But it signals Facebook is thinking more seriously about embracing the way people communicate today.”

What will it mean for privacy?

Encrypted messaging is in many ways a big plus for privacy. But the way Facebook collects information about you on its main service site isn’t changing, said Jen King, director of consumer privacy at Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society

“This is limited to a very specific part of the platform and it doesn’t really address all the ways Facebook is still collecting data about you,” she said. So users should still be alert about privacy settings and careful about what they choose to share on Facebook.

Facebook is likely to collect data about your messaging — so-called metadata that, according to security experts, will let it know whom you communicate with, when and how often you text them, where you are when you do it and for how long. That can tell Facebook a lot about you even if it can’t read the contents of your messages.

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FILE – The Instagram icon is displayed on a mobile screen in Los Angeles. VOA

What about vanishing posts?

Though the timeline is hazy, Zuckerberg did outline other changes users will eventually see. He said the company is looking at ways to make messages less permanent, a la Snapchat or Instagram “Stories,” which disappear after 24 hours.

“Messages could be deleted after a month or a year by default,” Zuckerberg wrote. “This would reduce the risk of your messages resurfacing and embarrassing you later.” Zuckerberg said users will have the ability to change the time frame or turn off auto-deletion. “And we could also provide an option for you to set individual messages to expire after a few seconds or minutes if you wanted.”

What about payment procedures?

Facebook will likely also expand the way users can use its platform to pay for things, said Justin Brookman, director of consumer privacy and technology policy for Consumer Reports. Zuckerberg didn’t mention any new payment plans specifically but did bring up payments four times in his post.

Currently, Facebook lets its users pay friends or businesses digitally by linking a credit card or PayPal account, and that method is not likely to change soon. But as Facebook looks to emulate Chinese behemoth WeChat, it could let you reserve a table through Facebook instead of going through an outside app, or order an Uber.

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FILE – A picture illustration shows a WeChat icon in Beijing. VOA

“Ideally, Facebook will try to get a cut of all transactions,” Brookman said. A digital currency of Facebook’s own is also rumored to be in the works.

ALSO READ: Ukrainian Hackers Used Online Quizzes to Leak Over 60K Facebook Users’ Data: Report

“Like many other companies, Facebook is exploring ways to leverage the power of blockchain technology,” Facebook said in a statement. “This new small team is exploring many different applications. We don’t have anything further to share.” (VOA)

Next Story

Facebook to Launch its Cryptocurrency Next Year: Report

According to Zuckerberg, Blockchain could give users more powers when granting data access to third-party apps

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Facebook, data,photos
A television photographer shoots the sign outside of Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. VOA

Facebook, which owns WhatsApp and Instagram, is gearing up to launch its own cryptocurrency next year, the BBC reported on Friday.

Called “GlobalCoin,” the cryptocurrency would work with a new digital payments system in about a dozen countries starting in the first quarter of 2020.

Facebook has been in contact with US and British financial regulators to launch it.

According to the BBC, Facebook is in touch with “Bank of England governor Mark Carney and officials at the US Treasury”.

With over two billion users across its platforms, Facebook could emulate WeChat in China which allows its users to chat, shop and play games without leaving its platform.

The Facebook cryptocurrency would need to overcome numerous technical and regulatory hurdles before it can be launched.

According to media reports, the Facebook currency could be designed to be a “stablecoin” with a value pegged to US currency in an attempt to minimize volatility.

A report last week said Facebook has reportedly set up a company called Libra Networks in Switzerland that is developing payments and Blockchain systems for the social networking giant.

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Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency and worldwide payment system. Wikimedia Commons

According to a report in CNET quoting Swiss publication Handelszeitung, the Facebook cyrptocurrency would be tied to the US dollar and could, therefore, remain stable unlike Bitcoin which has crashed.

“Facebook set up Libra Networks in Geneva several weeks ago. Libra is the social network’s internal project name for the digital currency,” the report said.

The Swiss company would focus on developing the software and hardware for currency-related functions like payments, Blockchain, analytics, big data and identity management.

Facebook declined to comment on the new report.

Also Read- Microsoft Interns Make English Learning App

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal earlier this month, the social media giant is “recruiting dozens of financial firms and online merchants” towards its cryptocurrency-based system that would use a digital coin similar to Bitcoin.

The New York Times reported in February that Facebook had a team of 50 people working on its virtual currency project.

In a public interview with Harvard Law professor Jonathan Zittrain in February, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he is “potentially interested” in putting the Facebook login on the Blockchain technology.

According to Zuckerberg, Blockchain could give users more powers when granting data access to third-party apps. (IANS)