Article note: The effort is commendable, but I'm not really sure how they realistically plan to put this genie back in the bottle.
The Federal Trade Commission has kicked off the rulemaking process for privacy regulations that could restrict online surveillance and punish bad data-security practices. It's a move that some privacy advocates say is long overdue, as similar Congressional efforts face endless uncertainty.
The Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, approved on a 3-2 vote along partisan lines, was spurred by commercial data collection, which occurs at "a massive scale and in a stunning array of contexts," FTC Chair Lina M. Khan said in a press release. Companies surveil online activity, friend networks, browsing and purchase history, location data, and other details; analyze it with opaque algorithms; and sell it through "the massive, opaque market for consumer data," Khan said.
Companies can also fail to secure that data or use it to make services addictive to children. They can also potentially discriminate against customers based on legally protected statuses like race, gender, religion, and age, the FTC said. What's more, the release said, some companies make taking part in their "commercial surveillance" required for service or charge a premium to avoid it, employing dark patterns to keep the systems in place.
Article note: Now what entirely foreseen recent event could have suddenly caused them to do that? It couldn't have to do with the christian nationalist takeover of parts of our government subpoenaing them under our fucked-up third party doctrine to prosecute people for medical care?
Meta has long been working on end-to-end encryption for its messaging products, but so far, only WhatsApp has switched on the privacy feature by default. In its latest update about its efforts, Meta said it will start testing default end-to-end encrypted chats for select users on Messenger. Those chosen to be part of the test will find that some of their most frequent chats have been automatically end-to-end encrypted. That means there's no reason to start "Secret Conversations" with those friends anymore.
The company is also testing secure storage for encrypted chats, which gives users access to their conversation history in case they lose their phone or want to restore it on a new device. To be able to access their backups through security storage, users will have to create a PIN or generate codes that they'll then have to save. Those two are end-to-end encrypted options and provide another layer of protection. That said, users can also opt to use cloud services to restore conversations — those with iOS devices, for instance, can use iCloud to store the secret key needed to access their backups. Meta will also begin testing secure storage this week, but only on Android and iOS. It's still not available for Messenger on the web or for unencrypted chats.
The other tests Meta is rolling out in the coming weeks include bringing regular Messenger features to end-to-end encrypted chats. It will test the ability to unsend messages and to send replies to Facebook Stories as encrypted chats, and it's also planning to bring end-to-end encrypted calls to the Calls Tab on Messenger. Ray-Ban Stories users will be able to send encrypted hands-free messages through Messenger, as well.
In addition, Meta is launching a new security feature called Code Verify, which is an open-source browser extension for Chrome, Firefox and Microsoft Edge. As its name implies, it can verify the authenticity of the Messenger website's web code and ensure that it hasn't been tampered with. As for Instagram, the company is retiring the app's vanish mode chats, which aren't encrypted, while also expanding ongoing tests for opt-in end-to-end encrypted messages and calls on the service.
All of these are part of Meta's preparations as it works its way towards the global rollout of default end-to-end encryption for messages and calls on its services. It plans to launch even more tests and updates before its target rollout sometime in 2023.