Mark Zuckerberg At F8 Conference

Jefferson Graham-USA TODAY

Zuckerberg Focuses On Safeguarding User Privacy At App Developers' Conference

May 01, 2018 - 5:59 pm
Categories: 

SAN JOSE, Calif. (WCBS 880/CBS News) -- In a speech to app developers in San Jose, California Tuesday, Facebook chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg promised to do a better job of securing users’ privacy.

The two-day developer conference, called F8, is usually an opportunity for the company to showcase new features and engender some goodwill.

But this conference was the first time Zuckerberg addressed the public after his two days of testimony to Congress last month, an appearance that legislators demanded after revelations that up to 87 million users may have had their personal data revealed through the network.

Among the announcements Zuckerberg made is a new tool that Facebook said will add to users' control over their privacy settings.

Called "Clear History," the tool will allow users to see what apps and websites share information with Facebook and delete this information from their account.

In a Facebook post, Zuckerberg characterized the tool as an example of Facebook doing the right thing even if it makes users' lives annoying.

"To be clear, when you clear your cookies in your browser, it can make parts of your experience worse," he wrote. "You may have to sign back in to every website, and you may have to reconfigure things. The same will be true here. Your Facebook won't be as good while it relearns your preferences."

"But after going through our systems, this is an example of the kind of control we think you should have," he said.

CBS News Tech Consultant Larry Magid told WCBS 880’s Steve Scott and Michael Wallace that while Zuckerberg did not say it, the “Clear History” tool is obviosulyl in response to the Cambridge Analytica situation that affected the estimated 87 million users.

“This would allow you to see what information you may have posted, and what apps you’ve interacted with, and delete it. So clearly, a good response to this situation that they find themselves in,” Magid said.

Zuckerberg also addressed Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, and promised the network would be more vigilant in spotting fake accounts and bot activity moving forward.

"We were slow to identify Russian interference," he admitted. "We expected more traditional cyberattacks... but we didn't expect these coordinated network operations and large numbers of fake accounts."

Zuckerberg previously called the idea that Russia interfered in the election "pretty crazy," a remark he's come to regret.

On Tuesday, he said, "We need to makes sure this never happens again."

Magid said he did not think Zuckerberg did a great job in front of Congress last month, saying the CEO looked “awkward and nervous.”

“But I do think that the company has doubled down and tried to figure out how to respond. The mere fact that F8, their big developer conference, is focusing a lot on issues of privacy and security and safety, that’s a big change. Normally, it’s: ‘Rah, rah! Let’s go! Let’s expand!’ They’re taking a step back. So a step in the right direction,” he said. “The big question one always has to ask is whether too little, too late. But I think they at least are trying to address these issues.”

Meanwhile Tuesday, Zuckerberg announced that Facebook will also roll out a series of features around dating.

“That’s kind of interesting – you know, it makes sense if you think about it. When you think, people post their preferences, they post their interests, their activities, their friends – there’s a lot of information that Facebook can use to try to figure out who among its millions or billions of members could be just right for you,” Magid said. “So it’s going to use an algorithm – obviously, you have to opt into it, but if you and that other person have opted in and there’s some common ground there, it might prepare a potential match. And Zuckerberg said they’re looking for long-term relationships, not just quick hookups.”

Facebook is also introducing a new headset called the Oculus Go. At $199, it promises to be one of the more affordable virtual reality headsets.

Oculus Go is different from other virtual reality devices because it does not require smartphones or a cord tethered to a personal computer to show three-dimensional videos.

The need for additional equipment is one of the reasons virtual reality, or VR, has had limited appeal so far.

Zuckerberg is counting on the Oculus Go to widen the audience for VR, as Facebook tries to deploy the technology to reshape the way people interact and experience life, much as its social network already has done.

Everyone at F8 got a free Oculus Go.

Further, Facebook will let users "downvote" posts, a feature that some users have been requesting for years.

The feature will "improve the quality of public conversation," said product head Chris Cox.

This brings Facebook more in line with competitors like social media site Reddit, where the most-liked comments often rise to the top.

Zuckerberg also announced that Instagram will roll out a video chat feature. WhatsApp, the messaging app owned by Facebook, will also introduce a group video chat.

Many Instagram users already use live video to hang out, he said. The new feature is an extension of that.

(© 2018 WCBS 880. CBS News contributed to this report.)