Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg has pledged to transform the company’s approach to privacy while revealing major changes to Instagram and WhatsApp.
With the slogan “the future is private” projected above him, the embattled social media billionaire unveiled plans for a “privacy-focused” platform in a speech to developers at the first day of the company’s annual F8 conference in San Jose, California.
Conceding that Facebook’s new commitment to privacy marked a “major shift” in the company’s direction, Mr Zuckerberg acknowledged that the social media behemoth had much work to do in order to rebuild trust with the global community.
“I know that we don’t exactly have the strongest reputation on privacy right now, to put it lightly,” Mr Zuckerberg said at Tuesday’s conference.
However, the tech mogul said he believed the company has “what it takes to evolve”.
Facebook has come under fire from governments, technology experts, and users across the world for a litany of sins including privacy breaches, misuse of user data, and a failure to prevent its platform from being used to sew misinformation and spread political propaganda.
The company was fiercely criticised by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern following the Christchurch massacre for its failure to clamp down on extremists using the platform to spread hate.
Facing mounting condemnation following the attack, Facebook agreed to ban white nationalist content from its sites.
Facebook’s new privacy focus will centre around giving people spaces where they can “express themselves freely and feel connected to the people and communities that matter most”, a statement from the company said.
Day one of the F8 conference also saw the unveiling of changes to the company’s other major platforms, Instagram and WhatsApp, as well as new details of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) innovations.
- Redesign: Facebook will roll out a redesigned site that’s “simpler, faster, more immersive” and puts communities at the centre. App users will notice immediate changes, with a new desktop site expected in “the next few months”.
- Putting groups first: Making it easier to switch between public spaces and private groups where users can engage with “groups of people who share your interests”.
- Secret Crush: A new feature called Secret Crush will allow users to select up to nine of their Facebook friends who they want to express romantic interest in. “If your crush has opted into Facebook Dating, they will get a notification saying that someone has a crush on them,” the company said. “If your crush adds you to their Secret Crush list, it’s a match!”
- Hiding likes: The photo-sharing app is experimenting with hiding the total number of likes on photos and videos.
- Shopping: Tipped to be a game-changer for online shopping, starting next week Instagram users will be able to buy products directly from creators without leaving the app.
- Fundraising: Instagram users can make donations to non-profit causes through a sticker in Instagram’s stories feature, and create their own fund-raisers.
- New camera: In coming weeks, Instagram will roll out a new camera design to make it easier for users to add effects and interactive tools.
- Business catalogues: A new tool to connect people with businesses expected in coming months. Catalogs will allow businesses to “showcase their goods” within WhatsApp and chat directly to customers.