From town square to living room: Zuckerberg announces sweeping changes to Facebook in new focus on privacy

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he would spend the next several years reorienting the company's apps toward encryption and privacy.Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photo files

Facebook, which for a generation has encouraged billions of people to widely share their life updates and pictures, says it is now trying to reinvent itself as a place for private communication.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday announced a sweeping reorientation toward privacy, explaining in a lengthy essay posted to his account that he would spend the coming years focusing Facebook’s distinct apps — WhatsApp, Instagram, Messenger and Facebook — on content that disappears after a period of time or is encrypted, meaning that data is scrambled so outsiders, and even Facebook, cannot read it. But the shift, which shows how the embattled company is positioning itself for an uncertain future marked by consumer distrust, declining growth on its core social network and ongoing fights with regulators around the world, could cause an upheaval in Facebook’s business model of mining people’s information to show them ads.

While offering few specifics, Zuckerberg said the company’s direction would shift from being a social network where people broadcast information to large groups of people — a town hall — to a service that is modelled after a living room, where people communicate with smaller trusted groups.

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