Could Facebook Start Mining Decrypted WhatsApp Messages For Ads And Counter-Terrorism? – Forbes

Could Facebook Start Mining Decrypted WhatsApp Messages For Ads And Counter-Terrorism? – Forbes

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GettyFacebook has touted an encryption-first future in which the company’s properties would be increasingly combined into a unified communications platform with end-to-end encryption protecting its users from outside access by governments or harvesters. Yet, the company has been careful in its statements not to make any mention that its own access might be curtailed, with the underlying unencrypted metadata still being archived and mined by the company as usual. Facebook’s efforts to monetize an end-to-end encrypted environment and recent remarks by Mark Zuckerberg himself raise the question of whether the company in the future might mine those communications in their unencrypted state on the sender’s and recipient’s devices.To the general public, end-to-end encryption may seem like a near-perfect form of communicative security, ensuring messages between a pair of devices are protected in transit and at rest while awaiting delivery. Indeed, such encryption, if implemented properly and without governmental or commercial backdoors, offers strong guarantees of message privacy.The problem is that end-to-end encryption only protects a message during transit.
The sender’s device typically retains an unencrypted copy of the message, while the recipient’s device necessarily must decrypt the message to display to the user. If either of those two devices have been ....


Communications metadata will allow it to fill in some of these gaps, inferring behavioral and interest traits of users through their communicative patterns. For example, if a given user’s political leanings are unknown, but they use WhatsApp on a weekly basis to call a group of friends that are all Democrats, while calling their Republican friends only sparingly, Facebook might infer their contemporary political leanings edge towards the Democratic party, even though Facebook has no access to the actual contents of their calls or messages. If they formerly spoke exclusively and regularly with their Republican friends, but over the past year have shifted to speak only to their Democratic friends, Facebook could even identify the user as a potential voter in transition, reminding us of the immense power of metadata.The real question is whether Facebook, under pressure from its investors and executives to maximize profit, decides to go further and actually mine encrypted communications like it has historically done with unencrypted messages.
As its encrypted applications are increasingly used by terrorists and criminals and to share hate speech and horrific content, the company will come under further pressure to peel back the protections of encryption.One possibility would be for Facebook ....

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