FACEBOOK HAS PREDICTABLY extolled the virtues of privacy at its F8 2019 willy-waving showcase, with founder Mark Zuckerberg touting that "the future is private".
But saying it is one thing, doing is another; and Facebook has been saying a lot lately. Now it looks like Zuck and pals are putting their money where their mouths are and are looking to serve up privacy and user-centric features, rather than an all manner of stuff based on erroneous likes and the, er, like.
For a start, messages sent through Facebook's Messenger service will get slathered with end-to-end encryption by default, much like Facebook-owned WhatsApp.
Messenger is also being redesigned to make it "faster and lighter", and it will get more options for easily sharing content and watching videos in real-time with friends.
It will also come with a Close Friends feature that'll allow users to set status messages and share stuff with their inner circles rather than that weird person they accepted a friend request from but forgot about years later only to have Hatchet Harry like each and every one of their posts.
Desktop Messenger apps for macOS and Windows 10 will also be made available later on in the year.
Instagram is getting the same dose of pseudo holistic community vibes. Facebook is planning to hide the number of likes a post garners from its users - people will still be able to count up the number of likes they've had manually - with the idea of encouraging people to share posts rather than get in a tizzy over how much 'engagement' (bleugh) they've had.
That'll probably ruin the day for some so-called influencers and social media engagement execs; how our heart will bleed.
This will start as a trial in Canada, so there's no guarantee the move will come to full fruition.
Fiddling with Facebook
Zuckerberg has previously championed that he wants Facebook to be a privacy-focussed platform, which frankly sounded nuts.
But the company's main namesake social network is getting a redesign that could end up being less about throwing autoplaying videos at your feed and more about creating communities, with a nod to privacy.
For example, there will be a redesigned Groups feature that'll supposedly make it easier to join groups with people who share your interests.
"We're also making it easier to get relevant group recommendations elsewhere in the app like in Marketplace, Today In, the Gaming tab, and Facebook Watch," said Facebook, noting that feature will more easily enable people to go from public to private conversations on Facebook.
It's not exactly a privacy-embracing feature, but at least Facebook will supposedly serve up stuff that's more finely tuned to the user than say based on tenuous data points.
Interestingly, there will be Health Support groups in which members can anonymously share information and ask questions about ailments, so they can effectively be private while asking why their privates are riddled with nippy crustaceans.
Likes in the front, subscribe in the rear
As this is Facebook we're talking about there needs to be something creepy to finish with, an lo and behold we have Facebook Dating expanding beyond Colombia, Thailand, Canada, Argentina, and Mexico.
It'll now be available in the Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Laos, Brazil, Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay, Guyana, and Suriname; we guess Brits are too busy tapping away a Tinder to need Facebook's dating chops.
The opt-in (yeah opt-in baby, that's it, give me your hard permission) service enables users to discover potential matches in groups, presumably not the Health Support ones.
But it's also being given a super creepy feature; Secret Crush. What sounds like a game you may have played at school actually involves making a list of up to nine Facebook friend's you'd like to roll in the hay with.
If one of those friends also puts you on their list, then it's on... providing you both overcome the awkwardness of fessin' up to having a list of crushes you've made on a platform that has already spilt the private posts of 14 million users.
You can create the friends-you'd-sling-one-to list without the selected friends being part of the Secret Crush service, with Facebook gleefully noting that "no one will know that you've entered a friend's name". Hmm... secret crush list today, a murder list you can't lose tomorrow.
Facebook also announced the Oculus Rift S and Oculus Quest virtual reality headsets will make their debut across 22 countries 21 May. And its also revealed other less interesting or amusing things, like better ways for businesses and people to connect on WhatsApp and lead generation templates to the Ads Manager service...snore.
All in all, Facebook looks like it's getting a good lick of paint. But we'll not hold our breath that it'll be committing to wholly to privacy-focused features; the future looks more like it'll be a little less public on Facebook rather than private. µ
Camera cracking cyber creeps
If you already own Fire and Echo devices...
Strictly Come DNSing
Kept you waiting, huh?