In the midst of Apple’s ongoing battle with the FBI over private data in the San Bernardino terrorist shooting investigation, The Guardian reported that Facebook and several other tech companies are increasing their own privacy technology. The New York Times also reported last week that Facebook could soon face its own legal pressures from the government after the Justice Department unsuccessfully sought a way around WhatsApp’s data encryption.
Among the stronger security measures, Facebook reportedly plans to encrypt all voice calls on the WhatsApp app, and also add more security to Facebook Messenger. More privacy for users is certainly welcome (and far better than the alternative), but the site also needs to be wary of how it appears in the court of public opinion.
“Those matters may seem separate, but U.S. national security officials view the increasing availability of encryption technology as a major aid to Islamic State’s online recruitment efforts. At some point, tech firms may have to choose whether they care more about being seen as helping the west to fight terrorism or standing as privacy advocates,” Daniel Yadron of The Guardian wrote.
Facebook certainly doesn’t want to be seen as siding with terrorists, but after so many previous privacy scandals, it may have no choice now but to draw a line in the sand and protect its users.