Facebook Commits to New ‘Privacy First’ Mantra, Mark Zuckerberg Says

CEO says Facebook’s network of apps will adopt end-to-end encryption and auto-deleting messages

Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg outlined the company’s plan to “build a simpler platform that’s based on privacy first,” after the social network has been heavily criticized for most of the last year over its handling of user data.

In a 3,000-word blog posted on Facebook Wednesday, Zuckerberg said that the strategic shift will include end-to-end encrypted messaging across all of Facebook’s platforms, barring Facebook and law enforcement from being able to read private conversations. Facebook-owned WhatsApp already has encrypted messaging, and it’s available as an opt-in feature on Messenger.

“I believe working towards implementing end-to-end encryption for all private communications is the right thing to do,” Zuckerberg said. “Messages and calls are some of the most sensitive private conversations people have, and in a world of increasing cyber security threats and heavy-handed government intervention in many countries, people want us to take the extra step to secure their most private data.”

The revamped privacy approach will also emphasize ephemeral messaging, which was made popular by Snapchat. Facebook is also pledging to abandon storing user data in countries that have “weak records on human rights like privacy and freedom of expression.” Zuckerberg said this could lead to issues in countries like Russia, where lawmakers have attempted to force the social network to keep user data on servers located in the country.

“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,” Zuckerberg said. “We do not believe storing people’s data in some countries is a secure enough foundation to build such important internet infrastructure on.”

Zuckerberg’s privacy mandate comes after Facebook spent most of 2018 being heavily criticized for its approach to user privacy and data collection. Last March, the company admitted that up to 87 million users had their profile information unwittingly accessed by political data firm Cambridge Analytica. He also acknowledged Facebook’s privacy push could be scoffed at by critics “because frankly we don’t currently have a strong reputation for building privacy protective services.”

You can read Zuckerberg’s full post here.