Facebook promises 'A Privacy-Focused Vision for Social Networking'

; Date: Thu Mar 07 2019

Tags: Facebook »»»» Privacy

Everyone should be worried about their privacy while using Facebook. Facebook is selling information it collects from us to advertisers, and has routinely allowed organizations of all stripes to collect an astonishing amount of data through the Facebook API. The evidence is piling up, and the users are looking for alternative social networks. If enough of us are spooked by Facebook's actions there might be a mass exodus to someplace else. I hear MeWe is a nice place with great policies. In that context, Facebook posted today an outline for improving privacy on Facebook.

The high points of the plan sound nice. (copied from (newsroom.fb.com) https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2019/03/vision-for-social-networking/)

  • 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.

Facebook no longer keeping permanent record of messages?

Oooohh.. Reducing Permanance is a major policy shift at Facebook. Facebook has been keeping every last scrap of data about us in permanent storage. To promise that the messages won't be kept longer than necessary is potentially a big deal, privacy wise.

That is, if Facebook actually does start deleting old messages.

The flip-side of this is that Facebook is increasingly used by Political Leaders to publish Official Statements. The Facebook posting containing such statements are then often embedded into news articles. Therefore if Facebook starts deleting all old messages, those records of official announcements will be lost, and the news articles embedding those postings will be broken.

As a big Doctor Who fan, this problem reminds me of all the lost Doctor Who episodes because in the mid-1960's the BBC thought nobody would ever watch those programs and proceeded to erase and reuse the tapes holding the master print of many Doctor Who episodes. This is a big pain in the heart for any serious Doctor Who fan that so much of the show's history was callously erased. Which might seem like a small thing compared to the potential loss of official announcements of high government officials, but this demonstrates the possible loss to society.

Of course it is incredibly silly that political leaders or anyone is treating a platform like Facebook as anything other than a place for ephemeral nothings.

If Facebook is true to form, they'll tell us they've started deleting all old postings, but they'll make the default to preserve all old postings, and not announce where the setting to start deleting old postings lives.

Heck - even for personal communications, we might prefer those messages to be deleted quickly but I can think of plenty of instances where the permanence of Facebook's record keeping is useful. It can be a critical part of a relationship at times to scroll back into communication history to see precisely what was said and when.

It's possible this change has to do with direct messages and not postings on news feeds. It's really not clear at all, because the precise meaning of messages in this context is not explicitly said:

So we won’t keep messages or stories around for longer than necessary

Does messages mean the direct messages, or the public postings? Not clear.

Facebook adding secure data storage, end-end encryption

They're saying some good things here. Supposedly messages will be encrypted such that not even Facebook staff can spy on the messages. Which suggests that in the past Facebook staff could spy on our messages (and who knows who else was granted that ability).

If Facebook really and truly does this, and it's not yet another Facebook lie, then it's a good thing.

We were unable to embed the posting by Facebook. To read it go to: (www.facebook.com) https://www.facebook.com/notes/mark-zuckerberg/a-privacy-focused-vision-for-social-networking/10156700570096634/

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About the Author(s)

(davidherron.com) David Herron : David Herron is a writer and software engineer focusing on the wise use of technology. He is especially interested in clean energy technologies like solar power, wind power, and electric cars. David worked for nearly 30 years in Silicon Valley on software ranging from electronic mail systems, to video streaming, to the Java programming language, and has published several books on Node.js programming and electric vehicles.