Facebook is only called a social media company because they want you to keep using their services. In reality, Facebook is a data-harvesting company. Social media is just the threshing machine the company uses to separate out all of the useful bits of your life that keep Mark Zuckerberg in business.
And, according to a new report from The Information, the company is investigating the potential of a whole new crop of user information — your encrypted messaging information sent over WhatsApp. See, users send masses of information over WhatsApp, but right now there’s just no way of using that information to sell you things.
Facebook’s gonna Facebook
The point of end-to-end encryption, as the social network went to great lengths to point out when the planet lost its temper with the service over those WhatsApp terms of service changes earlier this year, is that nobody but the people involved can see those messages. But now Facebook is investigating whether there’s a way for it to target ads based on the (encrypted) concept of WhatsApp messages without decrypting them or breaking encryption itself.
The company’s not the only one looking into homomorphic encryption — Amazon, Google and Microsoft are all also investigating how to somehow read encrypted messages without actually reading them. Succeeding at making this work would allow the company to slip targeted advertising into WhatsApp without technically knowing what you’re talking about.
Except that a glance at Facebook’s logs of which ads are served to which users could prove to be a bit of a giveaway — unless the service somehow manages to anonymise the whole thing so that even they don’t know what ads are being served to who. But then, how do you prove to advertisers that they’re being seen by their target market?
There’s no timeline on when (or if) the ability to serve ads based on end-to-end encrypted messages will be completed but you can bet that the moment it has been, you’ll see your chats interrupted by advertisements for whatever it is you’re talking about at that very second.