Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerburg, outlined a detailed vision for the future of the social media platform today, specifically its messaging services. Notably, in contrast to how the company operates today, he says the future of the platform will be privacy-focused with features like end-to-end encryption, interoperability between its various apps like Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, reducing how long it holds data, secure storage of personal data, and more.
Zuckerburg shared the privacy-focused vision in a Facebook post today:
My focus for the last couple of years has been understanding and addressing the biggest challenges facing Facebook. This means taking positions on important issues concerning the future of the internet. In this note, I’ll outline our vision and principles around building a privacy-focused messaging and social networking platform. There’s a lot to do here, and we’re committed to working openly and consulting with experts across society as we develop this.
He notes the shifting growth of communication in private groups and ephemeral posts like Instagram Stories and the rise of social payment services:
Today we already see that private messaging, ephemeral stories, and small groups are by far the fastest growing areas of online communication. There are a number of reasons for this. Many people prefer the intimacy of communicating one-on-one or with just a few friends. People are more cautious of having a permanent record of what they’ve shared. And we all expect to be able to do things like payments privately and securely.
Early on, he tackles the elephant in the room:
I understand that many people don’t think Facebook can or would even want to build this kind of privacy-focused platform — because frankly we don’t currently have a strong reputation for building privacy protective services, and we’ve historically focused on tools for more open sharing. But we’ve repeatedly shown that we can evolve to build the services that people really want, including in private messaging and stories.
He goes on to share the belief that the future of communication will be about services users can be confident will provide an encrypted, private experience.
Here are the pillars that Zuckerberg says the future of the Facebook will be built on:
- Private interactions. People should have simple, intimate places where they have clear control over who can communicate with them and confidence that no one else can access what they share.
- Encryption. People’s private communications should be secure. End-to-end encryption prevents anyone — including us — from seeing what people share on our services.
- Reducing Permanence. People should be comfortable being themselves, and should not have to worry about what they share coming back to hurt them later. So we won’t keep messages or stories around for longer than necessary to deliver the service or longer than people want them.
- Safety. People should expect that we will do everything we can to keep them safe on our services within the limits of what’s possible in an encrypted service.
- Interoperability. People should be able to use any of our apps to reach their friends, and they should be able to communicate across networks easily and securely.
- Secure data storage. People should expect that we won’t store sensitive data in countries with weak records on human rights like privacy and freedom of expression in order to protect data from being improperly accessed.
Zuckerberg goes on to describe each of these principles in detail and how it might apply to Facebook in the future. He says the changes will be made over “the next few years.”
Over the next few years, we plan to rebuild more of our services around these ideas. The decisions we’ll face along the way will mean taking positions on important issues concerning the future of the internet. We understand there are a lot of tradeoffs to get right, and we’re committed to consulting with experts and discussing the best way forward. This will take some time, but we’re not going to develop this major change in our direction behind closed doors. We’re going to do this as openly and collaboratively as we can because many of these issues affect different parts of society.
In closing Zuckerberg shares the criteria by which he’ll feel good about Facebook’s impact:
I believe we should be working towards a world where people can speak privately and live freely knowing that their information will only be seen by who they want to see it and won’t all stick around forever. If we can help move the world in this direction, I will be proud of the difference we’ve made.