What if Facebook is serious?

On Wednesday, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg had indeed made it into the news with a positive message – and also caused a worldwide stir with a 3200-word manifesto.

A news without (data) scandal: Messages would finally private, future not only encrypted end-to-end, but also no longer be permanently visible to delete themselves after a certain time. In addition, Facebook would like to store less metadata about news content and then store it for as short a period as possible.

“Religious conversion”

Critics were immediately on the spot. And mocked, such as the former legendary Wall Street Journal author and AllThingsD co-founder, Walt Mossberg: How long did Zuckerberg himself believe in his statements – “one day, one hour?”. And New York Times author John Herrman asked in wondering why Zuckerberg did not share details of his “religious conversion” with the astonished Facebook community.


Back in 2009 vs Back in 2019 pic.twitter.com/LOJs2mi3Ti

– John Herrman (@jwherrman) March 6, 2019

Two days later: a new leak

Sometimes everything happens very fast. Before Zuckerberg was able to present further details (if he wanted to), the group leader caught up with reality again: security researchers discovered a privacy gap in Facebook Messenger. The same leak had already appeared in 2018 and was then “corrected”. The bug fix, however, has now turned into a new security hole.

If a link is sent via the messenger, it can be used to find out who is talking to which other user and if they have access to the contact list. Facebook immediately stepped in and fixed the mistake. It will only take weeks, maybe even months, to see if this will lead to a new vulnerability.

Also interesting: Facebook-Newsfeed: Communicate, do not consume

But what if …?

Until then, once again, Zuckerberg’s word. Once again, in 2014, Zuckerberg had demonstrated after a hack of the Facebook server that Facebook – or only he – can delete messages immediately. If he wants it. Alone, it lacks the belief that he wants to give such tools to all Facebook users in the hand.

And nevertheless! Suppose Facebook finally got serious about data security: Would tomorrow’s Facebook still be Facebook as we know it today? No, says reputed US blogger Casey Newton, outlining in his exciting analysis what it would mean for Zuckerberg to follow his plans with action.

Facebook needs a new business model

Up to now, Facebook has focused on the newsfeed in the core business, especially for advertising. But research shows that the appeal of the timeline has become smaller for many users.

Many younger users switch to Twitter and Instagram (a Facebook subsidiary) or chat on the other Facebook platform, WhatsApp Messenger. This new decentralism endangers the success of Facebook. And more privacy makes it harder to present targeted advertising on Facebook to keep advertising revenue or, at best, increase it.

Facebook would become a trading platform

Already, so Newton, trade and payments are “omnipresent in Facebook”. Instagram is increasingly becoming an e-commerce platform and Facebook is developing its own cryptocurrency. Zuckerberg could actually redesign Facebook into a “service platform for private services and business services”. A task that could take years. Years that shareholders would probably not give Zuckerberg.

Facebook would be banned in some countries

If the Group really did implement data security, there would be problems in countries with dictatorial attitudes such as Russia or China. Government agencies have long been claiming that large companies need to store their data locally on servers in their respective countries. Law enforcement agencies in the countries mentioned want to gain easier access to their citizens’ data. So a “privatization” of Facebook could not actually take place in these countries. But if Facebook insists on its new rules, there is a threat of a ban on the platform and the loss of millions of users.

On the other hand, gain in credibility

On the other hand, a ban in such countries would contribute to the (new) credibility of the company, including in the US. Currently, for example, Apple is positioning itself as the US company that stands for the protection of private data.

The Cupertino corporation is constantly rebelling against law enforcement agencies like the FBI, which wants to crack down on criminals’ iPhones – but can not (only with the help of specialized tools that make it costly to pay companies such as the Israeli security firm Cellebrite) ,

Facebook could move to Apple’s side, as a defender of the freedom of the individual. This also allowed users to win back. In the USA alone, Facebook lost 15 million users in 2018 compared to the previous year, and many Facebook turned their backs on the advertising-relevant target group of 12- to 34-year-olds.

And what is really coming?

Zuckerberg must be judged by his own words. Too often his statements have proved unbelievable in recent years. Author Newton recalls that Zuckerberg promised four years ago that the news feed would soon be video-based.

This proved to be just as untrue as Zuckerberg’s announcement in 2016 that Facebook will develop “a social infrastructure”. What was meant by that, opens up to today nobody.

The dilemma with “Clear History”

For a long time, the Facebook founder has also promised the privacy tool “Clear History”. This should give users the option to delete information that Facebook filters out of the use of third-party apps and websites for the personalization of advertising.

At the end of February, however, Facebook had to admit to a conference of the bank Morgan Stanley, the tool comes “later in the year”. The reason: The Clear History feature restricts Facebook’s ability to import appropriate advertising.

This example shows again the great conflict in which the Facebook Group is.

Maybe even for years. Maybe forever.

Also interesting: Facebook: dirty game behind the scenes

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