Is Facebook finally getting serious about privacy?


Purple 1 May 2019
3 mins
Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook will focus on privacy.

It’s amazing what $3 billion can do.

In case you missed it, $US3 billion is the amount Facebook has announced it is setting aside to pay a fine relating to the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Also in case you missed it – and on a very much related matter – Facebook today announced a major new commitment to privacy, as well as a pivot away from news feeds towards private messaging platforms and community-focused activity.

That shift is unsurprising given the number of users for the Facebook-owned WhatsApp platform has grown to an estimated 1.6 billion – double what it was four years ago.

But there are also significant changes on the cards for Facebook’s Messenger platform, which had an estimated 1.3 billion users as of April and will now take on the end-to-end encrypted characteristics of WhatsApp.

In other words, nobody at Facebook will be able to see your messages, which is good news for those who don’t enjoy getting served advertising that mysteriously matches up with their “personal” chats. But it may also lead to concerns about unpoliced use by terrorists and other public safety risks, something which has been a hot topic in other territories.

Purple Design and Digital Director Jamie Wilkinson says the changes are a step in the right direction.

“There will be some who feel this is too little, too late,” he said.

“Trust has been so deeply eroded by Facebook’s various transgressions that it will be a long time before people associate it with security and privacy in the way they do, say, Apple. But at least they say they are improving in this area now. “

“Encryption in messaging by default is good for consumers, as is a renewed focus on ‘privacy by design’ across the whole suite of products.

“But Mark Zuckerberg looked less than contrite when he acknowledged his business doesn’t have a good reputation on privacy.”

A smirking Zuckerberg had used his opening address at the annual Facebook F8 developer conference to acknowledge the social media giant’s chequered history when it came to privacy.

Among other key announcements at F8 were significant changes to Facebook’s appearance (THAT long-associated blue is going), a renewed focus on groups and events as opposed to news feeds, the opening of pre-orders for VR headsets (the Oculus Quest and Rift S), the expansion of Facebook Dating to 14 more countries (including a feature called “Secret Crush”) and a Canadian test that will see the hiding of the total number of likes on Instagram posts.

“The change in brand is interesting,” Jamie noted.

“Facebook’s specific shade of blue (#3b5998 Hex, if you were interested) has been a constant throughout the company’s short life, and to move away from it now does suggest a visual break from the past which is a smart move to signal a new era for the company.

You can read the full list of announcements from the first day of F8 here.

You can also download our Data Breach Whitepaper

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Main image: Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook.