Facebook’s privacy announcement shows Zuckerberg's intent on being the good guy

Facebook’s privacy announcement shows Zuckerberg's intent on being the good guy

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg published a lengthy (3,000 word) blog post entitled A Privacy-Focused Vision for Social Networking. The post outlined a pivot of Facebook's public position on consumer data, expressing a new commitment to preserving privacy and taking measures including ensuring end-to-end encryption of messages across all Facebook-owned platforms (something that at present is only available on Whatsapp and if you specifically enable it on Facebook Messenger).

If fully realised, this would represent a head-spinning reversal from Facebook's approach up until this point, which has constituted funnelling up as much of our data as possible and unscrupulously proffering it to a range of developers and third parties. Facebook's behaviour up until this point has been in service of this vision - when the company went public in 2012, it was under the banner of a 'more open and connected' world.

Zuckerberg meaningfully addressing privacy is of course long overdue, following years of mounting pressure and ever-ramping public concern. Facebook has made tentative forays in this direction before, with the announcement last May of the as-of-yet still unreleased 'delete history' feature. However, following the detonation of scandal after scandal - the Cambridge Analytica events of last year being the biggest to date - it seems that Zuckerberg has finally accepted that some kind of response must be made.  

"Frankly we don't currently have a strong reputation for building privacy protective services," Zuckerberg writes in the post.

But is Zuckerberg really performing a swift 180 in how his business operates - from developing one of the most intensive and wide-sweeping data harvesting machines ever seen to the business of building 'privacy protective services'? Or is he simply paying lip service? The internet is - predictably - awash with circumspection.   

However, it has to be recognised that based on the statements made in the blogpost that Zuckerberg has not committed to anything approaching a complete overhaul of Facebook's business model, as some coverage has seemed to suggest. While it's true that at present third parties can skim Facebook messages for personal information to better curate ads, messages are but a drop in the ocean of metadata Facebook is currently guzzling up. Zuckerberg's practical proposals don't yet extend far beyond encrypting messages and ensuring that messages and Facebook Stories will be deleted after a certain time.