Facebook Reportedly Researching Ways to Use Encrypted WhatsApp Messages for Targeted Advertisements

According to a report by The Information, Facebook is looking for ways to analyze encrypted data such as WhatsApp messages without actually decrypting it. According to the report, Facebook confirmed that it has established a team for artificial intelligence researchers to study ways of "analyzing encrypted data without decrypting" it. Although it is still in its early stages, this research could allow Facebook to access encrypted WhatsApp messages from users and use that information for targeted advertising. This field of research is known as "homomorphic encrypted," and it is intended to enable companies to read encrypted data sets while protecting privacy against cybersecurity threats. Facebook advertises several similar job positions on its website. It states that it is interested in privacy-preserving technologies and "improving the efficiency of Facebook’s market-leading advertising system systems". According to its job advertisement on its website, the company continues to hire researchers with backgrounds in privacy technology, including secure computation, homomorphic encryption and data anonymization. These technologies aim to preserve privacy and simultaneously increase the efficiency of Facebook’s leading advertising system. Facebook's privacy practices have been the subject of intense scrutiny by lawmakers and the public. The Information believes homomorphic encryption may be Facebook's answer to growing privacy concerns and its relationship to the platform's business model, running ads. Homomorphic encryption for Facebook could allow it to make more money from ads that target users based on its knowledge. It also answers lawmakers' calls to protect privacy and prevent misuse or breaches of its data. It could also help the company make money through WhatsApp messages, which are encrypted and Facebook cannot use to target ads. Facebook is currently looking for a way to target WhatsApp users with ads, but homomorphic encryption may be able to allow Facebook to examine the data without actually sharing it with advertisers. According to a Facebook spokesperson, it was "too soon" for them to think about homomorphic encryption for WhatsApp. Facebook's apparent increase in research to target users with ads through WhatsApp messages is not surprising given Apple's recent rollout of ATT (App Tracking Transparency). ATT is an iOS framework that requires all apps to obtain user consent before they can track them across different apps. In the weeks before its official launch, Facebook was vocally critical of the framework. However, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO, stated that it has not had an impact on his company’s performance.