Facebook to no longer be the 'town square'

Facebook ups the privacy anti, it announces at Annual Conference

Facebook is expanding upon the privacy announcements it made in March this year, saying it is building a more privacy-focused social platform moving forward. 

The announcement was one of many during the first two days of Facebook’s Annual Conference, which included new AI and AR/VR advancements, as well as a new look, and a rebuilding of Messenger. 

Facebook chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, took to the stage to make the key announcement around privacy, which he says will focus on six key areas: Private interaction, encryption, reducing permanence, safety, interoperability, and secure data storage. 

Zuckerberg admitted Facebook does not have the best track record when it comes to privacy, but said it is committed to changing this moving forward by building safety into its platforms. 

“We don’t have the strongest reputation on privacy right now,” he said to the crowd. “The future is private. Privacy gives us the freedom to be ourselves.” 

He went on to say Facebook has spent 15 years becoming the digital equivalent of the town square, but moving forward it plans to become the digital equivalent of a living room. 

As such, Facebook will be more focussed on private interactions, as well as end-to-end encryption to ensure no one sees messaging they are not supposed to, not even Facebook, he said. 

The platform also has plans to reduce permanence, to ensure private messaging is not kept longer than necessary, as well as secure data storage, which operates effectively regardless of location. 

Locally, a Facebook spokesperson told CMO: “We believe 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. We’re committed to working openly and consulting with experts to ensure our vision for a privacy-focused platform is made possible.” 

Facebook has been talking about changes to privacy in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal last year, when more than 50 million Facebook user profiles were leaked to the controversial political data analytics provider in order to hyper-target voters in the US and the UK. 

Mark Henning, executive director media and digital at Kantar Consumer Insights, told CMO, generally speaking, Facebook’s announcements around privacy are a good thing.  

“It’s great for Facebook to be talking about privacy, they’ve been under pressure about this on multiple fronts. All the action they are taking, it’s a sensible thing for them to do,” he said. 

“They are changing so the consumer has more control over where posts go and who sees them, and this is a clear trend - consumers want control over content and experience. 

“The one question I would ask is: What happens with the data that sits behind all this? Are there any changes there? I suppose only time will tell on this front. But the intent is there, and there is a need for them to be doing something, so hopefully there is reality sitting behind it all.” 

The Association of Market and Social Research Organisations (AMSRO) also welcomed Facebook’s public commitment to becoming a privacy-focused platform. 

“With the volume of data available, any business handling personal information needs to be experienced and trusted users of data: with corporate reputation and revenue on the table, there is little room for error,” Terry Aulich, chair, AMSRO Privacy Committee, said.

“Ethical behaviour, independent certification and privacy law are the three pillars that underpin AMSRO member compliance and it’s high time other organisations collecting, storing and sharing personal information and data comply with a similar regime. 

“If we are to expect ongoing co-operation from the public, whose opinions are the lifeblood of this industry and others, we all need to be transparent, responsible and held to account.”

AI, AR, VR technologies facilitating change 

Key to this newly privacy-focussed Facebook, will be artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR), the social media platform said. 

Facebook currently uses AI, NLP and panoptic FPN to proactively detect content that violates its policies. 

Facebook says to help it catch more of this problematic content, it’s working to make sure AI systems can understand content with as little supervision as possible. 

“AI is instrumental as we work to keep our platform safe — but we know it comes with risks. Namely, it can reflect and amplify bias. To address this, we’re building best practices for fairness — to ensure AI protects people and does not discriminate against them — into every step of product development,” it said in a statement. 

“To manage that risk, we developed a new process for inclusive AI. This process provides guidelines to help researchers and programmers design datasets, measure product performance, and test new systems through the lens of inclusivity. For vision, those dimensions include skin tone, age and gender presentation and for voice, they include dialect, age and gender. The inclusive AI process is now in use across many product teams at Facebook and baked into the development of new features.” 

Using VR, Facebook also sees a future where people can interact, and come together, regardless of physical distance. It is developing fully adaptive, physics-based models that reproduce a 3D avatar with data from a limited number of sensors. 

“We’re using a layered approach that replicates human anatomy and can automatically adapt to perfectly match any individual’s appearance and unique motion. We design these models from the inside-out, developing a virtual skeleton then layering on the muscular structure, skin and clothing. The result is avatars are realistic – right down to muscle movement and the draping of clothes. We still have a long way to go before this research results in a product, but we are encouraged by the results so far,” Facebook said. 

Other key announcements at the Annual Conference so far include: A rebuild of Messenger from the ground up, a desktop app for Messenger, a new Facebook design, redesigned Groups within Facebook, Secret Crush within Facebook Dating, Shipping in Marketplace (US only), the ability to shop directly on Instagram, and the international expansion of Portal.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+:google.com/+CmoAu 

 

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