Facebook Promises Encrypted Messaging (and Privacy-Abusing Business as Usual)

Originally published at: https://tidbits.com/2019/03/07/facebook-promises-encrypted-messaging-and-privacy-abusing-business-as-usual/

In a lengthy blog post, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has promised to support end-to-end encryption and ephemeral content in the company’s messaging apps. That sounds good, but it doesn’t mean Facebook will stop exploiting all the rest of your data.

Ben Thompson’s article is excellent. There are two other things that bother me about the announcement:

Zuckerberg did not mention anything about a time frame or schedule for implementation of the encryption. He did when he announced the consolidation of Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook, which offer a tremendous increase in accurate, precision targeting opportunities for advertisers. And they announced recently that they are building a cryptocurrency exchange; it will be launched as part of WhatsApp. Facebook’s vectors for accumulating data will grow exponentially in the near term:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/28/technology/cryptocurrency-facebook-telegram.html

There was nothing about if or how the company might be doing more to restrict hate speech, violent porn, etc. And I wonder if making communications more “private” and “encrypted” among smaller groups might 0 make it more difficult to screen and weed out objectionable content. Zuckerberg made a bid deal about how effective encryption has been in WhatsApp

That’s a reasonable concern, and there’s no question encryption makes everything more protected. However, as long as Facebook retains the keys used for the encryption, it would always be able to decrypt the online communications when required by law. Apple resisted the FBI’s efforts to decrypt an actual iPhone, but will hand over iCloud data when required.

My guess is that Facebook would act similarly. The only way to have truly secure online data storage is if you control your encryption key, and while that works with online backups, I can’t quite imagine how Facebook or the like would allow a random group to have its own encryption key.

With regard to Facebook lying about its privacy-abusing activities, a few more headlines have just popped up:

And another headline from a few days ago.

The cynic in me wonders why anybody even bothers being surprised by any of this. How many have stopped using FB because of their repeated privacy violations? The company faces near-zero consequences for their behavior so why would anybody expect them to ever change?

Yeah, no surprises. I post this stuff because I think it’s important that people who aren’t in the know learn just how evil Facebook is. The only consequence that’s going to make any difference at all is users getting fed up and leaving.

Simon

    April 20

The cynic in me wonders why anybody even bothers being surprise by any of this. How many have stopped using FB because of their repeated privacy violations? The company faces near-zero consequences for their behavior so why would anybody expect them to change?

I never signed up for Facebook, and I was shocked to find out how much they track people who were never members, as well as ex Facebook members. They track browsing history of members and non members on and off site:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-facebook-privacy-tracking/facebook-fuels-broad-privacy-debate-by-tracking-non-users-idUSKBN1HM0DR

For non and ex members, like me, they create “shadow profiles,” though Zuckerberg & Co. hate this term:

https://www.theverge.com/2018/4/11/17225482/facebook-shadow-profiles-zuckerberg-congress-data-privacy

The US congress has been talking about regulation, but nothing has happened so far. What’s being currently under discussion doesn’t sound very comprehensive, but it would be better than nothing for the time being:

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/04/09/new-senate-bill-would-ban-a-deceptive-practice-used-by-facebook-to-get-users-contact-data.html

In addition to the EU’s GDPR, which is millions of miles ahead of the US, and Britain, Australia and other EU countries are expanding their regulations on privacy, hate speech and violence.

FWIW, the FTC has an active investigation against Facebook right now, is talking about a multi-billion dollar fine, as well as holding Mark Zuckrberg personally responsible for data breaches. (Facebook is under a 2011 consent decree through 2031 that is supposed to prevent sharing user private data without consent.)

ddmiller
Doug Miller
April 21

FWIW, the FTC has an active investigation against Facebook right now, is talking about a multi-billion dollar fine, as well as holding Mark Zuckrberg personally responsible for data breaches. (Facebook is under a 2011 consent decree through 2031 that is supposed to prevent sharing user private data without consent.)

This could be good news, but my cynical side can’t help but wonder how much lobbying will influence the outcome. But I also wonder if Zuckerberg will have to consider resigning his CEOship like Bill Gates did in the wake of the Microsoft antitrust Supreme Court ruling.

Don’t get me wrong, Adam. I think it’s great you guys put a spotlight on this kind of stuff.

I was rather thinking about the kind of oh-my-gosh-you-won’t-believe-what-FB-just-did kind of reporting I hear on the radio or TV around here. This is a you reap what you sow situation. So to all the sheep who keep uploading their content to FB (“that’s how I stay in touch with great aunt Mildred”) and help make Zuck richer and more invincible all I can say is, well, you had it coming.

Ah, yes. I never pay attention to mainstream media apart from tech-literate outlets, so I have very little idea of what’s said there.

What’s another $3 to $5 billion in fines when you can just build it into the cost of doing business?

Facebook just posted record earnings, and the stock just soared even with the $3-5 billion factored in. I had been thinking that maybe Facebook would be aiming for a quick payoff to tamp down the bad press, but no matter what hits the fan, it doesn’t seem to hurt them.

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/04/25/wall-street-analysts-loved-facebook-earnings-what-a-start-to-2019.html

I saw Kara Swisher talk at the Collision conference in Toronto last week—she really doesn’t mince her words.

And yet she appears to be a gigantic hypocrite. At the bottom of that very article I found this:

@karaswisherFacebook

You want to get Zuck to change his ways? Stop going to FB. Delete all your content there. Stop linking to it. The problem is YOU not doing that.

It’s a tricky situation for people like Kara—on the one hand, you can easily argue that she should stop using Facebook. On the other hand, you can just as easily argue that she needs to have a Facebook account to understand what she’s criticizing, and while she’s at it, she may as well take the criticism straight to the source, and ensure that her 250,000 Facebook followers see it in that context. Plus, her leaving Facebook is a hit of one, whereas using Facebook to criticize Facebook would have a far, far greater impact.

This is some of the reason why I haven’t deleted my Facebook account as well—as a journalist, I need to know and be able to check what I write about at times. And when we criticize Facebook, we want people on Facebook to see those criticisms—it doesn’t do nearly as much good to preach to the choir.

1 Like

So, essentially you’re arguing that her followers will take a step she is advocating for but not taking herself? Highly doubtful. Case in point, how many of her followers have left FB? How many people have left FB overall? Is it not more likely those people might leave if the holders of the accounts they follow left and those channels ceased to exist? At some point you have to assume leadership, because shoving people in a direction you aren’t willing to go yourself is just not a defendable position. Never has been. Peter Gabriel (or was it during the Phil Collins era?) sang about it though. :wink:

I would also argue that you do not need to be part of the FB machine to recognize and denounce FB’s misconduct. This is not an intricate search for evidence fueld by sleuthing investigative journalists. The evidence has already been clearly amassed on the table right in front of us all long ago. As has the lack of meaningful action and consequences.

No offense, but to me much of this all sounds like the excuses you’d get from heroin addicts. There’s always a plethora of good reasons why stopping right now is a really bad idea but rest assured they’ve got the situation under control. And so the circle continues. So maybe we should instead just offer thoughts and prayers.

You’re entitled to your opinion, but I think it’s extreme. Facebook is in many ways evil, but it’s over the top to compare it to the abuses of apartheid or discussion of how to criticize it to excuses of heroin addicts.

Persuasion take time and repetition. The invisible act of one person quitting Facebook wouldn’t be nearly as effective as having what people read in Facebook itself draw their attention to the company’s repeated abuses.

There’s also an argument to be made that Facebook is too large to be hurt by even mass defections. Too many people get all their information from Facebook itself at this point to even realize such a thing was happening, and too many people are too uneducated or too apathetic to make such a change. The logical conclusion thus becomes that the only way to rein in Facebook’s abuses is through external regulatory means.

So, essentially you’re arguing that her followers will take a step she is advocating for but not taking herself? Highly doubtful.

It’s extremely doubtful that Swisher’s Facebook audience joined the network just because they wanted to read what she posts there, or that reading her posts are the only things they do or read there. The best way to reach and influence a targeted primary audience Of Facebook users is via Facebook itself.

Case in point, how many of her followers have left FB? How many people have left FB overall? Is it not more likely those people might leave if the holders of the accounts they follow left and those channels ceased to exist?

The vast majority of Facebook users join to communicate with family, friends and special interest groups. I’ll bet that of all Kara Swisher’s followers, fewer than a handful joined Facebook just to read and/or comment on her posts. TidBITS and TidBITS Talk Facebook ain’t.