Facebook wants to scan WhatsApp for ads without breaking encryption | Internet

It’s no secret that Facebook’s big business is showing advertisements based on users’ profiles. The company, however, would be willing to go a step further and even use encrypted information to target ads — and that even includes WhatsApp messages.

Facebook and WhatsApp (Image: Robert Cheaib/Pixabay)

Information is from a new report on the site The Information. The publication confirmed that Facebook is assembling a team of experts to develop ways to analyze encrypted messages without having to break the encryption. Several job advertisements related to this project have already been posted by the social network on its website. The company says it wants to preserve privacy while improving the technologies of its advertising systems.

End-to-end encryption is one of the main features of WhatsApp, and the app loves to talk about it. It guarantees that the content sent can only be seen by the recipient of the messages – not even the company can know what was said or sent.

Facebook may resort to homomorphic encryption

To allow processing of encrypted message data without having to break the encryption, Facebook can use a technique called homomorphic encryption. This technique allows data to be manipulated and processed without having to reveal the content. The result of processing this data is identical to what would be obtained with unencrypted data.

Computer scientist Craig Gentry, one of the world’s leading experts on the subject, compares technology to a box with gloves: you can put your hands on the gloves and manipulate what’s inside the box, but you can’t extract the contents. Everything that has been manipulated remains there, and only those who have the key can open and remove what is inside.

Among other possible uses for this technique is the manipulation of medical or financial data for predictive analytics, where people’s identities and their information are extremely sensitive and need to be protected.

New WhatsApp policy caused controversy

News that Facebook wants to use messenger data to improve ad targeting comes just months after criticism over its new privacy policy. Under the new text, data from conversations with companies that use WhatsApp Business could be shared with these companies for marketing purposes. After threatening to block anyone who did not accept the new terms, WhatsApp backed off and made the change optional.

Despite the shouting, WhatsApp has been sharing things about you with Facebook for some time now: since 2016, data such as resources used (groups, calls or messages), information about the device (such as operating system, battery level and signal strength) and time of last connection to the app are collected and used to suggest friends, groups, content, offers and advertisements on company properties.

It seems that this goes a little beyond what the messenger’s creators intended. The app was sold in 2014; in 2017, Brian Acton left the company, and in 2018, it was Jan Koum’s turn, who did not accept the changes related to users’ privacy.

One of the main flags of the app, by the way, was the promise of never having ads. The messenger still has no advertisements in the main interface, but it should start displaying them in Status, its version of Stories.

Acton has already made his displeasure with Facebook clear and recommended that users delete the social media giant’s apps after the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Today, he is Executive President of the Signal Foundation, responsible for maintaining Signal, one of WhatsApp’s main competitors for those looking for more privacy.

With information: MacRumors and Android Authority

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