The Facebook F8 conference is mere hours away, and while we cannot wait for the announcements that they’re going to make, I think we need to pause and reflect on what they should be talking about instead. Over the last year, Facebook has been caught doing some pretty shady things, including:
- Intentionally tricking minors into making in-app purchases and then denying refunds,
- Paying kids as young as 13 to let Facebook “see” everything that they do online, and;
- Developed blocking tools designed to increase ad transparency
Well, that was just January. But if we look at this from a macro lens, it’s not going to make it any better. In fact:
- Facebook disclosed that hackers had spent over a year inside their own system, compromising 30 million accounts,
- The platform played a role in genocide and a mass shooting
And what about Cambridge Analytica? Have we forgotten about that? The scary part about the Cambridge Analytica scandal is the fact that it was barely news during F8 last year. Which means Facebook has made a lot of trips to Congress and 12 months haven’t even passed. Which makes me wonder if Facebook has bigger problems to concern itself with than its developer conference. Unless it’s going to address privacy in a huge way, and my guess is that it won’t to the extent that we want it to.
So what can we expect from F8? Just a moment ago, I said that we likely weren’t going to hear anything about privacy, and well, that’s not completely true. We will, but with a big fat asterisk beside it. Back in January, Mark Zuckerberg announced his intention to combine messaging across all the apps – WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger, and giving us an end-to-end encrypted version of a messaging app sometime in 2020. While a more streamlined approach to messaging isn’t a bad thing, how will they handle privacy across the multiple platforms when it comes to a person’s identity? Will they be able to make it clear when a message is encrypted and when it isn’t? As of right now, Instagram doesn’t offer an encrypted option.
Along the same lines, we are also expecting an update on Facebook’s algorithmic enforcement efforts. More specifically, how successful artificial intelligence has become at putting a stop to problematic posts, before they’re published on the platform in the first place. The problem is that Facebook shouldn’t rely on AI to solve these problems, but yes – we definitely want to see these kinds of improvement.
We can also expect to see some updates to Oculus and other AR related updates to Instagram and Facebook itself. Facebook has 10 panels scheduled during F8 to help developers get the most out of Spark AR Studio, which is a suite of tools to create camera-based effects.
What F8 is lacking is a “big” moment. This happens with Apple from time to time, but with any good conference, there needs to be a draw. F8 is a developer conference, so there’s a good chance that the information provided will focus on refinements and advancements of projects, rather than announcing or developing new ones. All in all, F8 will be interesting given the PR nightmare that Facebook has been going through for the last several months.