Saturday 19 October 2019

Zuckerberg preaches privacy, but evidence is elusive


Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: Reuters
Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: Reuters

Kurt Wagner and Selina Wang

FACEBOOK CEO Mark Zuckerberg stood on stage Tuesday at the company's annual F8 conference in San Jose, California, in front of a giant screen sharing a simple message: "The future is private."

Zuckerberg spent most of his speech talking about Facebook's commitment to a privacy-focused future, which will include more ephemeral posts, small-group activity rather than public sharing, and encryption for Facebook's messaging apps. But there was an easy way Facebook could have shown its commitment to privacy that would have saved Zuckerberg some time: by rolling out 'Clear History', a feature Facebook promised a year ago that will let people disassociate their internet-browsing histories from their Facebook profiles.

Clear History was first announced at last year's F8, the company's event for developers and partners, in response to an outcry about data collection and privacy lapses on its sites. The tool still hasn't been launched, and it wasn't mentioned Tuesday.

"It's going to take time," Zuckerberg said of Facebook's privacy-focused future. "I'm sure we're going to keep on unearthing old issues for a while, so it may feel like we're not making progress at first. But I think that we've shown, time and again as a company, that we can do what it takes to evolve and build the products that people want."

To be sure, these are challenging problems to unravel. Facebook's business was built on harvesting detailed user data to show people precisely targeted ads - not the kind of thing you simply undo overnight.


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