Earlier this year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote a blog post in which he envisioned a more private version of the platform. Now that vision is attracting unexpected attention from the US Senate.
In a letter earlier this month, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) asked Facebook questions about whether it will collect metadata from these privatized and encrypted messages to track users or target ads, a potential threat to Facebook's attempts to attempt. Now Facebook has that rfocused on those questions, although the answers reveal little about the company's plans for the future.
In his letter, Hawley asked Facebook if it would collect data from the new private messaging system proposed earlier this year. The company responded to the questions and suggested that the collection and use of this data to target advertisements or to report changes to the company was not excluded. Facebook said it would also focus on smaller groups and Hawley expressed concern about whether that communication would also become more private.
Zuckerberg stated in his privacy statement that the company was looking to build a secure payment system. Hawley asked Facebook if it would use data from the payments to serve users' advertisements. In its reply letter, Facebook said: "Transaction information can be used for personalization on the Facebook platform in accordance with Facebook's data policy."
"There are still many open questions about which metadata we will keep," said the letter from Facebook. Facebook also suggested that this collection of metadata would make the platform safer by reducing spam and enabling employees to collaborate better with law enforcement.
Zuckerberg & # 39; s decision to change the direction of the company was announced amid growing criticism of the collection and processing of user data by the platform. Tech critics and lawmakers have wondered whether this pivot was made out of genuine concern or as a way to undermine the growing criticism.
Even as a freshman senator, Hawley has branded himself as an advocate for consumer privacy online. Earlier this year he worked with Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) to offer more privacy protection to minors by changing the Personal Data Protection Act online.
"My advice to consumers is simple," Hawley continued. "When Facebook tells you that its messaging services are private, you can't trust them. I would like to know what Brian Acton and Jan Koum (founders of WhatsApp) think while reading this answer."
It is not entirely clear when Facebook plans to formally pivot on this new privacy-focused vision for the platform, but Zuckerberg has said before that it might take several years before it is fully in place.
"Frankly, I was shocked by Facebook's response," Hawley said Wednesday in response to social media network responses. "I thought they would renounce the creepier options I had abolished. But they doubled instead."