Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (pictured) laid out an ambitious plan to rebuild the social media network with a focus on privacy, as regulators in the US and Europe dig in to its data collection practices.

In a lengthy post, Zuckerberg flagged encryption, reduced data permanence and secure data storage as key pillars of the new strategy.

“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. This is the future I hope we will help bring about.”

Pillars of privacy
In addition to previously announced plans to extend WhatsApp-style encryption to Messenger and Instagram, Zuckerberg outlined plans to add more avenues for private interactions with friends, groups and businesses.

He also said Facebook is exploring a new model in which content will expire or be archived automatically after a set period of time: “People want to know that what they share won’t come back to hurt them later”, he wrote.

The CEO added it “makes sense” to collect less personal data from the outset and limit how long the company stores messaging metadata, which is used to inform spam and safety systems. Facebook will also continue to be careful about where it builds data centres, noting it will steer clear of countries with a track record of violating human rights including privacy and freedom of expression.

Zuckerberg acknowledged the moves won’t come without risks.

For instance, he noted encryption can protect the privacy of people with ill intentions as well as good, and said Facebook has a responsibility to work with security forces to prevent illegal activity. To achieve this in an encrypted environment, he noted the company is working to halt malicious use of the platform “by detecting patterns of activity” among other approaches.

While the decision to take care over the location of data centres may lead to Facebook being blocked in some countries, “that’s a trade-off we’re willing to make”.

Critics alleged the company is simply playing for time as regulators close in.

Facebook has been under increased scrutiny since news of the Cambridge Analytica data breach broke in March 2018, with condemnations of its data collection and privacy practices from officials in both the UK and Germany.

The company also faces trouble at home, as it reportedly negotiates a multi-billion dollar fine with the US Federal Trade Commission related to the 2018 breach.