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Apr 12, 2001
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Facebook is researching ways to analyze encrypted data, such as WhatsApp messages, without actually decrypting the information, according to a new report from The Information.

Whatsapp-Feature.jpg

The report cites that Facebook has confirmed it is building a team of artificial intelligence researchers to "study ways of analyzing encrypted data without decrypting it." While it is still early in development, the research could enable Facebook to use users' encrypted WhatsApp messages and then utilize that information for targeted advertising.

This specific field of research is called "homomorphic encryption," which is hoped to allow companies to read information from encrypted sets of data while also preserving privacy to protect against cybersecurity threats. Facebook has advertised several related job roles on its website, noting that it wants to work on privacy-preserving technologies while "simultaneously expanding the efficiency of Facebook's market-leading advertising systems."
The company continues to recruit researchers with backgrounds in privacy-related technologies including homomorphic encryption, secure computation and data anonymization, according to job advertisements on its website. The technologies are aimed at preserving privacy while "simultaneously expanding the efficiency of Facebook's market-leading advertising systems."
Facebook has famously been the subject of scrutiny from lawmakers and members of the public over its privacy practices. The Information believes that homomorphic encryption could be Facebook's response to growing concerns over user privacy and its relation to the platform's business model of running ads.
For Facebook, homomorphic encryption could offer a way to continue to make money from ads that are targeted based on what it knows about individual users while also answering calls from lawmakers to take privacy more seriously and prevent the misuse or breach of its data. And it could aid the company's effort to make money from WhatsApp, whose messages are encrypted, meaning Facebook can't use them to target ads.

Facebook has considered a workaround to target ads to WhatsApp users in the meantime, but homomorphic encryption could allow Facebook to analyze the data without actually reading it or sharing it directly with advertisers.
A Facebook spokesperson told The Information that it is "too early for us to consider homomorphic encryption for WhatsApp at this time." The timing of Facebook's apparent ramp-up of research into new ways to target ads to users through their WhatsApp messages comes not long after Apple's rollout of ATT or App Tracking Transparency.

ATT is a framework on iOS 14.5 and later that requires that all apps to ask for user's consent before tracking them across other apps and websites. Facebook had been a vocal critic of the framework in the weeks leading up to its official launch; however, after its rollout, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said it has had little impact on his company's performance so far.

Update: Will Cathcart, head of WhatsApp, has tweeted in response to The Information's report that WhatsApp is not exploring the use of homomorphic encryption. Cathcart states that there should be skepticism of "technical claims that apps like ours could see messages in "good" cases only."

Article Link: Facebook Reportedly Researching Ways to Use Encrypted WhatsApp Messages for Targeted Advertisements
 
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one more

macrumors 68030
Aug 6, 2015
2,542
2,541
Earth
The research could enable Facebook to read users' encrypted WhatsApp messages and then use that information for targeted advertising.

For targeted advertising where, within WhatsApp itself? 🤔
 
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centauratlas

macrumors 65816
Jan 29, 2003
1,463
2,556
Florida
I am surprised facebook didn't just say: everything in WhatsApp will be encrypted, we'll just hold all the keys or a master key.

They are despicable.

Apple needs to add full iCloud on device keys - everything in the ecosystem should be encrypted using on device keys. The collectivist authoritarians around the world won't rest until they have access. Time to put barriers in place now.
 

V.K.

macrumors 6502a
Dec 5, 2007
685
410
Toronto, Canada
Facebook is finding new ways to be evil. But I am confused. Doesn't homomorphic encryption require cooperation of WhatsApp? Would WhatsApp go along with this?
 
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123

macrumors 6502a
Mar 3, 2002
605
440
everything in WhatsApp will be encrypted, we'll just hold all the keys or a master key.
Or the Apple way: we just locally analyze everything you do, write, receive. But whatever is transmitted is always fully encrypted and only your contacts can read it.
 

Sasparilla

macrumors 68000
Jul 6, 2012
1,683
2,829
I am surprised facebook didn't just say: everything in WhatsApp will be encrypted, we'll just hold all the keys or a master key.

They are despicable.

Apple needs to add full iCloud on device keys - everything in the ecosystem should be encrypted using on device keys. The collectivist authoritarians around the world won't rest until they have access. Time to put barriers in place now.

Agree with all of it. That said, I'm pretty sure Apple didn't lock down iCloud because of the pressure of the U.S. government - guessing Apple Exec's made a calculated guess that if they locked it down, there would be a high risk of lawmakers mandating backdoors. Users can make local encrypted backups via Apple tools so they have that option.

Stepping back a bit, if you're relying on private companies to protect your privacy (as opposed to your government) you've already lost...its only a matter of time and the right leader to blow those private barriers away.
 

jimbobb24

macrumors 68000
Jun 6, 2005
1,847
2,842
and im sure every Gov in the world is also researching how to read encrypted messages on WhatsApp, telegram, etc
Yes all the organizations that have historically demonstrated a compulsion toward tyrant and abuse are behaving as we would expect.
 
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