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Mark Zuckerberg declares that “the future is private”; notes on encryption, private messaging, secure data storage: Facebook F8 2019

Mark Zuckerberg opened Facebook’s annual developer conference F8 with the declaration that he believes “the future is private”. Reiterating Facebook’s apparent rehaul toward an interoperable privacy-focused service, something the company has announced in the past few months, Zuckerberg said people need public and private spaces in the digital world, and the company has worked on building Facebook and Instagram into the digital equivalents of the town square, and WhatsApp and Messenger into the ‘living room’.

“Privacy gives us the freedom to be ourselves,” which is why Zuckerberg says, “its no surprise that the fastest way we’re all communicating online is private messaging in small groups and in stories.”

1. The new privacy-focused vision is based on six principles: Private interactions, encryption, reducing permanence, safety, interoperability, and secure data storage. “We need a digital equivalent of the living room that is just as built out with all of the different ways we want to interact privately with messaging, small groups, sharing where your content doesn’t stick around forever, simple and secure payments, private ways to share your location and over time lots of different ways to interact privately,” said Zuckerberg. This translates into a focus on stories, private messaging, carrying out business on Instagram and Facebook, and focusing on payments and small businesses on WhatsApp, and on Messenger to some extent. Facebook is introducing more privacy focused features such as emphasising more on Facebook groups instead of on Newsfeed for the Town Square platforms ie Facebook and Instagram, and focusing more on how to leverage existing (already private) messaging apps or the ‘living room’ for business.

2. Facebook plans to achieve this vision the way it has developed WhatsApp – starting with a secure private messaging service with end-to-end encryption, and build more ways to interact privately within that.

3. Zuckerberg knows it’s been a bad year for Facebook:

I get that a lot of people aren’t sure that we are serious about this, I know that we don’t exactly have the strongest reputation on privacy right now.

Zuckerberg acknowledged this right after declaring that the future is private, and he’s right. Within the span of a week, Facebook was caught intentionally tricking minors into making in-app purchases, and paying kids aged 13 to let Facebook spy on their mobile activity. Last year, it was discovered that 30 million accounts were compromised on Facebook, and the company is facing a regulatory backlash from several nations including Ireland, Canada, the US and the UK, among others.

4. Facebook’s security and data localisation: “We’re not going to store data in countries where it may be improperly accessed wither because there is a weak rule of law or the government might try to forcibly get access to your data,” said Zuckerberg. Data security and storage, and hence data localisation, is something Zuckerberg mentioned a few days ago in an investor call as well; “More countries following the approach of authoritarian regimes adopting strict data localisation policies where governments can more easily access people’s data, and I’m highly concerned about that future,” he had said. “Our stance on data localisation is a risk. That is, if we get blocked in a major country, that will hurt our community and our business. But our principles on data localisation aren’t new and this has always been a risk.”

Watch the full F8 keynote address here.

Note: This is a developing story; we will update it with more relevant announcements from Day 2 of F8.

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