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Facebook to merge messaging services in privacy push

By Danielle Haynes
Facebook to merge messaging services in privacy push
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company will focus on increased security and encryption for communications. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

March 6 (UPI) -- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday said he plans to rebuild the social media network with stronger privacy in mind after years of criticisms over its handling of users' personal data.

Going forward, he said he envisions Facebook to shift focus to private messaging services through Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp. The company plans to merge the messaging platforms for the various networks.

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"I believe the future of communication will increasingly shift to private, encrypted services where people can be confident what they say to each other stays secure and their messages and content won't stick around forever," Zuckerberg said in a public Facebook post. "This is the future I hope we will help bring about."

He said the new focus will be on user safety and encrypted communications.

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"I understand that many people don't think Facebook can or would even want to build this kind of privacy-focused platform -- because frankly we don't currently have a strong reputation for building privacy protective services, and we've historically focused on tools for more open sharing," he wrote. "But we've repeatedly shown that we can evolve to build the services that people really want, including in private messaging and stories."

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Facebook came under scrutiny last year after it was revealed the company allowed data mining firm Cambridge Analytica to gain access to millions of users' personal information.

Cambridge University academic Aleksandr Kogan and his company Global Science Research used the quiz app "This Is Your Digital Life" to gather data on 270,000 users -- and the users' friends, who did not participate in the quiz -- which it then shared with data mining firm Cambridge Analytica in 2015. The company used the demographic information from 87 million Facebook users to target political advertising.

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In March, whistleblower and Cambridge Analytica co-founder Christopher Wylie revealed the data mining company was holding onto Facebook user data without the users' consent even after Facebook told the company to delete it.

Wylie said the company was initially funded by billionaire Robert Mercer and his boss was former Breitbart founder and White House adviser Steve Bannon.

Wylie said leadership at Cambridge Analytica wanted to fight a "culture war."

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In addition to increasing encryption and private communications, Zuckerberg said the new push at Facebook would also focus on reducing permanence of messages and secure data storage.

"Over the next few years, we plan to rebuild more of our services around these ideas. The decisions we'll face along the way will mean taking positions on important issues concerning the future of the internet," he said.

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