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Facebook ‘showed importance of privacy shift’ at developer conference

Science & Technology | Published:

Industry analysts noted a change in tone from the social network’s usual approach to its annual event.

Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook’s privacy push at its annual developer conference showed the social network is taking the issue seriously, an industry expert has said.

The social network gave its first insights into its plans for a “privacy-focused social network” in the future during its F8 event in San Jose.

And technology expert Geoff Blaber from CCS Insight said the change in tone from previous years of the convention was stark enough to show Facebook was serious about making changes to its business.

Today at F8, I talked about how we're starting to build out a privacy-focused social platform.For the last 15 years,…

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday, April 30, 2019

On stage, the firm’s founder Mark Zuckerberg even acknowledged that many people will find it hard to believe the company given its record of data privacy issues over the last 18 months.

“I get that a lot of people aren’t sure that we’re serious about this. I know we don’t have the strongest reputation on privacy,” he said with awkward laughter during his keynote.

“But I’m committed to doing this well and starting a new chapter for our company.”

Mr Blaber said the speech was very different from those seen at the event before.

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“The F8 opening felt unlike the average developer keynote. It’s a telling indication of the importance of a shift to a privacy-first platform and the need to prepare developers for the journey,” he said.

“Facebook chose to focus less on new service and product announcements and more on the future of a privacy-led platform. This is in sharp contrast to previous years and a measure of the importance Facebook is attaching to the transition.

“It’s clear that Facebook doesn’t yet know the full impact of its shift to a privacy-led platform. Implications for advertising revenue seem inevitable in the long-term but payments and shopping represent valuable revenue streams in its privacy-first future.”

Harry McCracken, industry expert and technology editor at Fast Company, also noticed Facebook’s change in approach from discussing new ways of sharing data to ways of getting it secure.

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“Mark Zuckerberg, who once used F8 keynotes to say the future involved doing things like automatically sharing what you’d eaten, now says that it’s about privacy,” he wrote on Twitter.

However, the company’s approach was not embraced by everyone watching.

Technology journalist Brandy Zadrozny said: “Not to overreact, but this is terrifying. Facing criticism that Facebook allows people to organize and spread misinformation, dangerous conspiracy, and hateful ideology content in groups, Zuckerberg decides to lock it down even tighter.”

In the announcement of its financial results last week, Facebook revealed it was setting aside 3 billion dollars in preparation for an anticipated fine from the US Federal Trade Commission in relation to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, highlighting the intense scrutiny now on the company.

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