The news continues to get worse for Facebook. This is one of the worst breaches of privacy in modern history. The latest shot to the reputation of the platform came as its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, admitted that his company could read your private messages.
In a podcast interview with VOX’s Ezra Klein, the Facebook CEO admitted that the company could read and censor the private messages that you send to your friends. The revelation came amongst others in a wide-ranging interview aimed at saving the tech giant as its stocks and trust both free fall.
He explained during the interview that he had received a call from his Mountain View staff informing him that messages about ethnic cleansing in Myanmar had been blocked. “So that’s the kind of thing where I think it is clear that people were trying to use our tools in order to incite real harm,” the 33-year-old billionaire said. “Now, in that case, our systems detect that that’s going on. We stop those messages from going through. But this is certainly something that we’re paying a lot of attention to.”
Facebook representatives spoke to Bloomberg News to defend the company and its scanning of private messages. They attempted to somehow explain that your private messages, which Facebook scans, are still private.
“For example, on Messenger, when you send a photo, our automated systems scan it using photo matching technology to detect known child exploitation imagery or when you send a link, we scan it for malware or viruses,” a spokeswoman for Facebook Messenger said. “Facebook designed these automated tools so we can rapidly stop abusive behavior on our platform.”
“Keeping your messages private is the priority for us; we protect the community with automated systems that detect things like known images of child exploitation and malware,” a spokesperson said. “This is not done by humans.”
On Wednesday, Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan and Deputy General Counsel Ashlie Beringer said in a blog post that the company will propose new updates to its terms of service and data policy so that users will have a better idea of how their information is being used and marketed on Facebook Messenger, Whats App, and Instagram.
“It’s important to show people in black and white how our products work – it’s one of the ways people can make informed decisions about their privacy,” they wrote. “These updates are about making things clearer. We’re not asking for new rights to collect, use or share your data on Facebook. We’re also not changing any of the privacy choices you’ve made in the past.”
But that information did not stop Apple CEO Tim Cook from chastising Facebook. As part of an MSNBC special titled “Revolution: Apple Changing the World.” Cook said in the interview that he “wouldn’t be in this situation.”
“We care about the user experience, and we’re not going to traffic in your personal life,” the Apple CEO said. “I think it’s an invasion of privacy. I think it’s… privacy to us is a human right. It’s a civil liberty and is something that is unique to America. This is like freedom of speech and freedom of the press, and privacy is right up there for us.”
Zuckerberg fired back at Cook in his Vox interview, calling his comments “extremely glib.”
“The reality here is that if you want to build a service that helps connect everyone in the world, then there are a lot of people who can’t afford to pay,” he said. “And therefore, as with a lot of media, having an advertising-supported model is the only rational model that can support building this service to reach people…But if you want to build a service which is not just serving rich people, then you need to have something that people can afford.”
No matter how he words it, Facebook is scanning your private messages. If you care about your privacy on one of the world’s most used platforms, the idea that your messages are being scanned is frightening.