Read Mark Zuckerberg’s letter on Facebook’s privacy-focused future

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has just published a long publication describing what he describes as a "privacy-focused" future for his company's messaging platforms, Facebook Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp. , and online communication in general.

The letter is Zuckerberg's most significant preview of Facebook's messaging ambitions (and the compromises necessary to achieve them) in years. Touch encryption, data storage, user security and more. Zuckerberg admits that some of these important changes could be several years away, but some will consider that the ideas he is promoting are a paradigm shift for a company that has always prioritized the public connection of people. Keep in mind, however, that Zuckerberg is addressing the messages to a large extent. This does not necessarily indicate that there have been major changes in the central Facebook service or in the place of the information source as a public forum (and the many problems that stem from that).

Zuckerberg's letter is included in its entirety below.

A privacy-centric vision for social networks
by Mark Zuckerberg

My focus over the last few years has been to understand and address the biggest challenges facing Facebook. This means taking positions on important issues related to the future of the Internet. In this note, I will present our vision and principles regarding the construction of a platform for social networks and messages focused on privacy. There is a lot to do here, and we are committed to working openly and consulting with experts from society as we develop this.

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In the last 15 years, Facebook and Instagram have helped people Connect with friends, communities and interests in the digital equivalent of a city square. But increasingly, people also want to connect privately in the digital equivalent of the living room. When thinking about the future of the Internet, I believe that a communications platform focused on privacy will be even more important than today's open platforms. Privacy gives people the freedom to be themselves and connect more naturally, that's why we build social networks.

Today we already see that private messages, ephemeral stories and small groups are by far the fastest growing areas in online communication. There are a number of reasons for this. Many people prefer the intimacy of communicating one on one or only with a few friends. People are more cautious about having a permanent record of what they have shared. And we all hope to be able to do things like payments privately and safely.

Public social networks will continue to be very important in the lives of people, to connect with all their acquaintances, discover new people, ideas and content, and give people a broader voice. People find this valuable every day, and there are still many useful services to build on them. But now, with all the ways in which people also want to interact privately, there is also the opportunity to create a simpler platform that focuses first on privacy.

I understand that many people do not believe that Facebook can or wants to build this. type of platform focused on privacy – because, frankly, we do not currently have a solid reputation for creating privacy protection services, and we have historically focused on tools to share more openly. But we have repeatedly shown that we can evolve to build the services that people really want, even in private messages and stories.

I believe that the future of communication will increasingly change to private and encrypted services where people can have confidence in what they do. Telling each other stays safe and your messages and content will not stay forever. This is the future, I hope we help achieve it.

We plan to build this the way we have developed it on WhatsApp: focusing on the most fundamental and private use case, messaging, make it as safe as possible and then build more ways for people to interact in addition to that, including calls, video chats, groups, stories, business, payments, commerce and, ultimately, a platform for many other types of private services.

This platform focused on privacy will be built around several principles:

Private interactions. People should have simple and intimate places where they have clear control over who can communicate with them and the confidence that no one else can access what they share.

Encryption. Private communications of people must be secure. End-to-end encryption prevents anyone, including us, from seeing what people share in our services.

Permanence. People should feel comfortable being themselves, and should not have to worry about what they share and then hurt them again. Therefore, we will not keep messages or stories for longer than necessary to provide the service or more than people want.

Security. People should expect us to do everything possible to keep them safe in our services within the limits of what is possible in an encrypted service.

Interoperability. People should be able to use any of our applications to reach their friends, and they should be able to communicate through networks easily and safely.

Secure data storage. People should expect us not to store sensitive data in countries with weak human rights records such as privacy and freedom of expression to prevent data from being accessed incorrectly.

In the coming years, we plan to rebuild more of our services around these ideas. The decisions we will face on the road will mean taking positions on important issues related to the future of the Internet. We understand that there are many concessions to achieve this, and we are committed to consulting with experts and discussing the best way forward. This will take some time, but we are not going to develop this big change in our direction behind closed doors. We will do this in the most open and collaborative way possible, since many of these problems affect different parts of society.

Private interactions as a base

For a service to feel private, there should never be any doubt about who you are communicating with. We have worked hard to build privacy in all our products, including those to share with the public. But a great property of messaging services is that even as your contact list grows, your threads and individual groups remain private. As your friends evolve over time, messaging services evolve gracefully and remain intimate.

This is different from the wider social networks, where people can accumulate friends or followers until the services feel more public. This adapts well to many important uses: telling all your friends about something, using your voice on important topics, finding communities of people with similar interests, following creators and media, buying and selling things, organizing fundraisers, growing businesses, or many other things that benefit from having all your acquaintances in one place. Even so, when they see all these experiences together, it feels more like a plaza in a city than a more intimate space like a living room.

There is an opportunity to build a platform that focuses on all the ways people want to interact in private. . This sense of privacy and intimacy is not just about technical characteristics, but is deeply designed in the sense of service in general. In WhatsApp, for example, our team is obsessed with creating an intimate environment in all aspects of the product. Even where we have built characteristics that allow for a wider exchange, it remains a less public experience. When the team formed groups, they established a size limit to ensure that each interaction was private. When we sent stories on WhatsApp, we limited public content because we worried that it might erode the sense of privacy by seeing a lot of public content, even if it did not really change who you're sharing with.

In some years I hope that future versions of Messenger and WhatsApp become the main ways in which people communicate on the Facebook network. We focus on making both applications faster, simpler, more private and more secure, even with end-to-end encryption. Then we plan to add more ways to interact privately with your friends, groups and businesses. If this evolution is successful, interacting with your friends and family through the Facebook network will become a fundamentally more private experience.

Encryption and security

People expect their private communications to be secure and only seen by the people I sent them to, not hackers, criminals, governments that spread too much , or to the people who operate the services they are using.

There is a growing awareness that the more entities have access to their data, the more vulnerabilities there are for someone to misuse it or for a cyber attack to expose it. There is also a growing concern among some that technology may be centralizing power in the hands of governments and companies like ours. And some people worry that our services may access their messages and use them for advertising or other forms that they do not expect.

End-to-end encryption is an important tool for developing a social network focused on privacy. Encryption is decentralizing: it limits services like ours to see the content that flows through them and makes it much more difficult for any other person to access their information. This is the reason why encryption is an increasingly important part of our lives online, from banking to health services. It is also the reason why we created end-to-end encryption in WhatsApp after we acquired it.

In the last year, I have spoken with dissidents who told me that encryption is the reason why they are free or even alive. Governments often make illegal demands for data, and while we reject and fight against these requests in court, there is always the risk that we will lose a case, and if the information is not encrypted, we will have to turn over the information or risk being arrested to our employees if we do not comply. This may seem extreme, but we have had a case in which one of our employees was imprisoned for not providing access to someone's private information, although we could not access it because it was encrypted.

At the same time, It is necessary to address the real security concerns before we can implement end-to-end encryption in all our messaging services. Encryption is a powerful tool for privacy, but that includes the privacy of people who do bad things. When billions of people use a service to connect, some of them will use it for truly terrible things like child exploitation, terrorism and extortion. We have the responsibility to work with the police and help prevent this where possible. We are working to improve our ability to identify and stop bad actors in our applications by detecting activity patterns or by other means, even when we can not see the content of messages, and we will continue to invest in this work. But we face an inherent compensation because we will never find all the potential harm we do today when our security systems can see the messages themselves.

Finding the right ways to protect both privacy and security is something that societies have historically dealt with. There are still many open questions here and we will consult with experts in security, law enforcement and governments on the best ways to implement security measures. We will also need to work together with other platforms to make sure that, as an industry, we do well. The more we can create a common approach, the better.

In general, I think that working to implement end-to-end encryption for all private communications is the right thing to do. Messages and calls are some of the most sensitive private conversations people have, and in a world of increasing threats of cybersecurity and government intervention with a strong hand in many countries, people want us to take one more step to secure their data. more private. That seems right to me, as long as we take the time to build the appropriate security systems that stop the bad actors as much as we can within the limits of an encrypted service. We started working on these security systems based on the work we have done on WhatsApp, and we will analyze them with experts until 2019 and beyond before fully implementing end-to-end encryption. As we get more information from these experts, we will finalize the way to implement these systems.

Reduction of permanence

More and more we believe that it is important to keep information for shorter periods of time. People want to know that what they share will not harm them later, and reducing the amount of time their information is stored will help.

A challenge in the construction of social tools is the "problem of permanence". As we accumulate large collections of messages and photos over time, they can become a liability and an asset. For example, many people who have been on Facebook for a long time have pictures of when they were younger that could be embarrassing. But people also love to keep a record of their lives. And if all posts on Facebook and Instagram were to disappear, people would lose access to a wealth of knowledge and valuable experiences that others have shared.

I think there is an opportunity to set a new standard for private communication platforms, where content expires automatically or is archived in time. Stories already expire after 24 hours unless archived, and that gives people the comfort of sharing more naturally. This philosophy could be extended to all private content.

For example, messages can be deleted after a month or a year by default. This would reduce the risk of your messages reappearing and embarrass you later. Of course, if you wish, you could change the time period or disable the automatic deletion of your sequences. And we could also provide an option for you to configure individual messages to expire after a few seconds or minutes, if desired.

It also makes sense to limit the amount of time we store the messaging metadata. We use this data to run our spam and security systems, but we do not always need to keep them in a long place. An important part of the solution is, first, to collect less personal data, which is the way WhatsApp was created from the beginning.

Interoperability

People want to be able to choose what service they use to communicate with people. However, today, if you want to send messages to people on Facebook, you must use Messenger, on Instagram you must use Direct and on WhatsApp you must use WhatsApp. We want to give people an option so that they can communicate with their friends through these networks from the application they prefer.

We plan to start by making it possible for you to send messages to your contacts using any of our services, and then to extend that interoperability to SMS as well. Of course, this would be optional and you can keep your accounts separate if you wish.

There are advantages of privacy and security for interoperability. For example, many people use Messenger on Android to send and receive SMS text messages. These texts can not be encrypted end-to-end because the SMS protocol is not encrypted. However, with the ability to send messages through our services, you could send an encrypted message to the Messenger WhatsApp phone number.

This could also improve the convenience in many experiences where people use Facebook or Instagram as their social networks. Network and WhatsApp as your preferred messaging service. For example, many people who sell items in the Marketplace list their phone number so people can send them a message about their purchase. That's not ideal, because you're giving strangers your phone number. With interoperability, you could use WhatsApp to receive messages sent to your Facebook account without sharing your phone number, and the buyer would not have to worry about whether he prefers to receive a message on one network or another.

You can imagine many simple experiences: a person discovers a business on Instagram and makes an easy transition to his favorite messaging application for secure payments and customer service; another person wants to catch up with a friend and can send them a message that goes to their preferred application without having to think about where that person prefers to be contacted; Or just post a story of your day on Facebook and Instagram and you can get all the answers from your friends in one place.

You can now send and receive SMS text messages through Messenger on Android today, and we would like to extend this in the future, perhaps including the new RCS telecommunications standard. However, there are several problems that we will have to solve before this is possible. First, Apple does not allow applications to interact with SMS on their devices, so we can only do this on Android. Secondly, we should make sure that interoperability does not compromise the expectation of encryption that people already have using WhatsApp. Finally, it would create security and spam vulnerabilities in an encrypted system to allow people to send messages from unknown applications where our security and protection systems can not see the activity patterns.

These are important challenges and there are many questions here that require more consultation and discussion. But if we can implement this, we can give people more options to use their preferred service to safely reach the people they want.

Secure data storage

People want to know that their data is stored securely in places they trust. Looking at the future of the internet and privacy, I believe that one of the most important decisions we will make is where we will build data centers and store confidential data of people.

There is an important difference between providing a service in a country and storing the data of people there. As we build our infrastructure around the world, we have chosen not to build data centers in countries that have a history of human rights violations such as privacy or freedom of expression. If we build data centers and store confidential data in these countries, instead of simply caching non-confidential data, it could make it easier for those governments to take information from people.

Maintaining this principle may mean that our services will be blocked in some countries, or that we will not be able to enter others in the short term. That is a compensation that we are willing to make. We do not believe that storing people's data in some countries is a secure enough foundation to build such an important Internet infrastructure.

Of course, the best way to protect the most confidential data is not to store them, that's why WhatsApp does not store any encryption key and we plan to do the same with our other services in the future.

But the storage of data in more countries also sets a precedent that encourages other governments to seek greater access to the data of their citizens and, therefore, weakens the protection of the privacy and security of people in all the world. I think it is important for the future of the Internet and privacy that our industry stands firm against the storage of data from people in places where it will not be safe.

Next steps

Over the next year and beyond, there are many more details and compensations to work related to each of these principles. Much of this work is in the early stages, and we are committed to consulting with experts, advocates, industry partners and governments, including law enforcement and regulators, around the world to make these decisions. correctly.

At the same time, working through these principles is only the first step in building a social platform focused on privacy. Beyond that, it is necessary to think seriously about all the services we build on that basis, from how people make payments and financial transactions to the role of companies and advertising, and how we can offer a platform for other private services .

But these initial questions are critical to be correct. If we do this well, we can create private sharing platforms that could be even more important to people than the platforms we have already created to help people share and connect more openly.

Doing this means taking positions in some of the most important issues facing the future of the internet. As a society, we have the opportunity to establish where we are standing, decide how we value private communications and who can decide how long and where the data should be stored.

I think we should work for a world in which people can talk privately and live freely, knowing that their information will only be seen by those who want to see it and will not stay forever. If we can help move the world in this direction, I will be proud of the difference we have made.

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