Facebook's new strategy leaves many questions unanswered

San JoséMark Zuckerberg tries a joke. "I understand that many people are not sure if we are serious," says the Facebook boss. He reaps a few tired laughs in the hall.

It's just after ten in the morning at the McEnvoy Convention Center in San Jose. The 34-year-old network founder has just introduced the new Facebook strategy in his keynote address to the developer conference F8. And that's so surprising that Zuckerberg has yet to emphasize how serious he is: Yes, on Facebook is now privacy in the center.

A "new chapter" for the platform should begin, a "massive project", everything will be turned on its head, explains the Facebook founder. "We have to change in many ways, as we have run the company." It is not a change of management, even if investors have asked Zuckerberg in the crisis more often to resign. Instead, the Facebook boss wants to show that he responds to criticism after all the scandals.

Facebook announces that it will be encrypting end-to-end communication on the network with Messenger and Instagram as it already does with WhatsApp. Zuckerberg had already announced a similar project in March. Users can now reach friends on Instagram and WhatsApp via Messenger. In addition, Facebook wants to promote the exchange in groups as well as the visual "stories", which disappear after a short time.

With the new strategy Zuckerberg diverts attention away from the problematic content in the newsfeed, with its manipulative fake news, the political debates, hate calls, through which Facebook has again and again come under fire. Instead of public debates, the focus should be on the "get-together" with friends.

Many problem solutions remained vague

Journalist and author David Kirkpatrick considers Facebook's announcements to be a farce and change superficial. "It remains unclear how the company wants to tackle the terrible problems it has caused. Hatred speeches, terrorist recruitment and political manipulation, to name but three, "criticized the creator of the bestseller" The Facebook Effect "Facebook's rise to tech giants.

Zuckerberg had embezzled the real challenges for his company, that was "very disappointing," said the author. Kirkpatrick, a longtime confidant of Zuckerberg, believes the new privacy strategy is just one way "to cover up the issues without doing anything meaningful to reduce them." Zuckerberg "simply can not really accept how much evil his system has caused and refuses to admit it."

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is still deciding what to do to punish the network for violating data privacy lawsuits in the scandal surrounding British Cambridge Analytica – three or five billion dollars.

Zuckerberg precautionarily declares the start of a new era. "The future is private," is the mantra he and other Facebook managers recite to the audience.

Also signal effect is not lacking. As the most visible external sign of the great Facebook catharsis, the network says goodbye to the pithy blue in which it has been shining since 2004. The mobile version of the new design should be available immediately. Of course, that does not solve everything, admits Zuckerberg. He was sure that the "old problems" would still occur for a while, "so that at first it may feel like we are not making any progress".

With flattering speeches here and minor concessions, he uses the developer conference, where the company gathers programmers and customers every year to brush up on the reputation – without significantly changing the course itself. Of the disasters of the past 15 months is hardly the speech – and not even what consequences Facebook pulls from many incidents.

The list of missteps reads endlessly: Last year, the network was caught entraining minors at the age of 13 years to be spied on by Facebook completely. In October, the platform had to admit that for more than a year, hackers could see 30 million profiles unobserved on the network. And just over a year ago, the Cambridge Analytica debacle led to Zuckerberg and its top manager Sheryl Sandberg being cited several times before the US Congress.

Geoff Blaber from the analysis house CCS Insights, however, believes in the seriousness of Zuckerberg. The 34-year-old had hardly talked about new products in the keynote speech for the F8, but deliberately focused on the change of strategy. "This is a stark contrast to the previous years and shows how important Facebook is for this change."

The pressure on the network is growing. If Facebook does not change itself, the legislator threatens to do it. With the FTC penalty could be sensitive changes in Facebook's advertising model pending. Governments in Europe, including Germany, France, and the United Kingdom, or in Australia, India, and New Zealand also oppose the network. US Senator Elizabeth Warren publicly demanded a smashing of major tech companies, which also targeted Facebook.

Facebook wants to counteract and show goodwill. The Messenger, which uses two billion people, Zuckerberg wants to expand the "living room in your pocket". Privacy is an essential requirement for users to express themselves as they really are, he believes. How exactly Zuckerberg defines the new "privacy", he leaves open.

So far, he announced only an encryption for communication between individual users. But what users do on the network, click, watch, comment, "like", with whom they chat for how long and from where – all this valuable information, the network apparently still collects. "Facebook needs to make 100 percent transparent what data it collects or who can access what data," claims Ramon Llamas of the data company IDC.

"It's hard to believe Facebook"

"Facebook's handling of privacy was, to put it bluntly, so far unclear" and in tone "not always sincere," criticized Debra Williamson eMarketer. "As often as Facebook has talked about privacy – there were always missteps and revelations coming out," says Williamson. "It's hard to believe Facebook."

All the more assured Facebook CEO Zuckerberg that the network wants to have learned from the past. This time around, the company will be more careful and prudent in making the changes, tackling problems and potential negative side effects "more proactively," he promises. The oft-quoted Facebook strategy of "Move fast and break things" should be a thing of the past.

Zuckerberg has no choice. The world's largest network must defend hustle and bustle, if only to keep the exasperated politicians in Washington and Europe in a good mood.

Meanwhile, Facebook's business has long since recovered from the scandals. The Facebook stock has gained more than 35 percent over the past three months. In the last quarterly results Facebook reported again increasing sales. The popularity of the platform grew. 2.7 billion people now use the offer, of which 2.1 billion daily. Zuckerberg announces marginal changes in the product, while constantly inventing new ways to keep users on the platform even longer.

The Messenger will also be available on Mac and Windows in the future. Facebook's groups are more prominently displayed on the network. There are also new features for online dating. Since 2018, when Facebook first introduced the idea of ​​digital hype, the app launched in five countries, including Canada and Thailand, with 14 new countries added, and the US at the end of the year.

What does the new strategy for advertising sales mean?

With "Secret Crush" users can create a list of friends in whom they have a romantic interest. If they are also on the list of this joy, it comes to the "match", Facebook connects them with each other. "Meet New Friends" shows suggestions for friendships. The sound remains playful and many questions open.

This also applies to Facebook advertisers. Zuckerberg did not explain what the new privacy strategy means for the commercial advertising model. The majority of Facebook revenue still comes from the data-driven advertising business. According to eMarketer, the platform will spend $ 67 billion on advertising this year, with the majority of ads appearing on Facebook and Instagram news feeds. "Encrypted messages will reduce the amount of targeted advertising information that many advertisers will get," says Debra Williamson of eMarketer.

But Facebook now comes with much less data to effectively deliver its advertising. The thesis represents at least the design philosopher Tristan Harris, who previously worked at Google and Apple and today criticized the tech industry. Again and again, data and privacy scandals such as Facebook led to a brief outcry in public. But real solutions were not found. He does not believe that more privacy or privacy is the solution. "Companies like Facebook already have so much data that they can easily anticipate our behavior."

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