Facebook’s former chief of security says its privacy pivot is ‘punting’ on its hardest issues

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made the announcement earlier this week that his company would move to a "privacy-centric communications platform" that prioritizes encrypted private messaging and groups over the publications of face to the public and the news feed based on algorithms.

According to the company's former security chief, Alex Stamos, the move could mean that some of Facebook's toughest problems with moderating speech and curbing bad behavior will effectively disappear. "Mark Zuckerberg decided he can not be in the middle anymore, the medium is where you continually lose," Stamos told a crowd at Vox Media's SXSW event series, referring to Facebook's attempt to establish a line between strictly controlling speech and the behavior on its platform and respect freedom of expression.

When it comes to bad actors on the platform, whether Russians trying to organize interference in elections or vaccine advocates who disseminate false information, "Facebook is effectively saying that it is not our problem," adds Stamos, and says that such problems "will disappear for the most part" in a world that moves away from the engine of recommendations and news feed dictated algorithmically. "I see him [Mark] playing in that kind of trouble because that's a class of problems where he can not win."

Although Facebook actually removed the anti-vaccine groups and pages from its recommendation engine last week. The company will not yet completely eliminate those organizations from the platform. And that situation is emblematic of the kind of intermediate position Stamos says that invites most of the criticism towards Zuckerberg's existing approach.

Essentially, Facebook is criticized for not doing enough to stop misinformation and other unpleasant content on one side, while the other is opposed to any indication that a private company decides what they say more than 2.3 billion people from the most populated population in the world. Powerful digital platform.

But by switching to private groups and messages, with a key focus on encryption to recover consumers and critics concerned about privacy, Facebook may be able to dodge having to make those missed and missed calls, says Stamos.

"This indicates to me that … it is giving up News Feed and the public because, apparently, the data of this decision show that the desire to be public or semi-public is a decreasing desire of the people," says Stamos. He adds that the change also makes it clear that Zuckerberg gives up on the web (because it would not be possible to encrypt chats in a browser) and renounces China (where the government would never allow a US company to operate with direct control over the network ). data.)

Of course, we still do not know how Facebook intends to get all this out; the change is based on the fact that the company is achieving its interoperable vision for a system that connects Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp and even SMS. Nor is it really clear what role Facebook would play in public pages and news in this new vision.

It is entirely possible for Facebook to keep that part of its product intact and to target older users and those who are still comfortable with the company's approach to data collection and ad targeting. In that world, Zuckerberg would not be "punishing" his most difficult problems, but simply turning his attention away from the part of his platform that is more susceptible to bad actors, which does not do much for Facebook to be a healthier environment. .

But Stamos says the biggest obstacle to the future of Facebook will be money. If the company creates a unified and encrypted messaging system and encourages users to abandon their main product, their ad targeting will be much less effective and may generate much less interest from advertisers. "The real question," Stamos says, "is how fast it happens, and by giving up these advertising revenues, they can find other income to replace it."

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