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Facebook and the new privacy revolution

Summary:
It seems to me that the new, pending reconfiguration of Facebook will bring much more user privacy, most significantly from the forthcoming integration of all of the Facebook messenging services.  More concretely, WhatsApp is way better than Facebook Messenger as it stands, so why not make Messenger more like WhatsApp? In some ways this will mean considerable sacrifice for the company.  Facebook has been pushing through this plan for general, end-to-end encryption, even though one of the top product people at the company just resigned for exactly this reason, a very real loss to the building process. There are inevitable trade-offs between “ability to control messages,” and “promoting user privacy.”  In the longer run I think company control of messages does not face objective standards

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It seems to me that the new, pending reconfiguration of Facebook will bring much more user privacy, most significantly from the forthcoming integration of all of the Facebook messenging services.  More concretely, WhatsApp is way better than Facebook Messenger as it stands, so why not make Messenger more like WhatsApp?

In some ways this will mean considerable sacrifice for the company.  Facebook has been pushing through this plan for general, end-to-end encryption, even though one of the top product people at the company just resigned for exactly this reason, a very real loss to the building process.

There are inevitable trade-offs between “ability to control messages,” and “promoting user privacy.”  In the longer run I think company control of messages does not face objective standards that can command social consensus, or for that matter survive competition from less salubrious and less mainstream alternatives.  I fear also that company control of messages will evolve all too suddenly into government control, First Amendment or not.  Even with a non-activist government, a large and publicly visible company cannot help but look over its shoulder, and consider the possible regulatory or antitrust reaction from the government, when making post/not post decisions.

General encryption and thus user privacy is the right way to go.  Of course there will be public relations bumps along the way, and probably today we are seeing one of them, namely the personnel shifts.  Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg are currently in a kind of PR trap where any decision, any announcement, can and will be taken the wrong way and as a sign that some value or another simply isn’t being served the proper way.  We all know that negative news typically has more clicks and longer legs than positive news.  But if you’ve been talking about user privacy, I think this is a decision you have to favor.

You can debate whether there should be one, two, or three cheers here, but the actual reality is we are taking some pretty big steps toward truly private internet social media.

The post Facebook and the new privacy revolution appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

Tyler Cowen
Tyler Cowen is an American economist, academic, and writer. He occupies the Holbert C. Harris Chair of economics as a professor at George Mason University and is co-author, with Alex Tabarrok, of the popular economics blog Marginal Revolution. Cowen and Tabarrok have also ventured into online education by starting Marginal Revolution University. He currently writes the "Economic Scene" column for the New York Times, and he also writes for such publications as The New Republic, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Newsweek, and the Wilson Quarterly.

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