Facebook Pledges to Build Data Centers Where Data Privacy + Human Rights are Protected
by Josh Anderson
MENLO PARK, CA — Mark Zuckerberg has released a new blogpost pledging to significantly up Facebook’s standards regarding international site selection for data centers. Zuckerberg promised to only store data in countries where such data, as well as human rights, can be trusted to be protected.
“As we build our infrastructure around the world, we’ve chosen not to build data centers in countries that have a track record of violating human rights like privacy or freedom of expression,” he wrote. Pillars of the plan include:
- Private interactions: People should have simple, intimate places where they have clear control over who can communicate with them and confidence that no one else can access what they share.
- Encryption: People’s private communications should be secure. End-to-end encryption prevents anyone — including us — from seeing what people share on our services.
- Reducing Permanence: People should be comfortable being themselves, and should not have to worry about what they share coming back to hurt them later. So we won’t keep messages or stories around for longer than necessary to deliver the service or longer than people want them.
- Safety: People should expect that we will do everything we can to keep them safe on our services within the limits of what’s possible in an encrypted service.
- Interoperability: People should be able to use any of our apps to reach their friends, and they should be able to communicate across networks easily and securely.
- Secure data storage: People should expect that we won’t store sensitive data in countries with weak records on human rights like privacy and freedom of expression in order to protect data from being improperly accessed.
“There is an opportunity to build a platform that focuses on all of the ways people want to interact privately. This sense of privacy and intimacy is not just about technical features — it is designed deeply into the feel of the service overall. In WhatsApp, for example, our team is obsessed with creating an intimate environment in every aspect of the product,” wrote Zuckerburg. “Even where we’ve built features that allow for broader sharing, it’s still a less public experience. When the team built groups, they put in a size limit to make sure every interaction felt private. When we shipped stories on WhatsApp, we limited public content because we worried it might erode the feeling of privacy to see lots of public content — even if it didn’t actually change who you’re sharing with.”
However, some industry observers are crying foul on this promise — for example, TechCrunch has argued that if Facebook meant what it pledged, it wouldn’t have invested so much in Singapore, a country infamous for its lack of right to privacy and freedom of expression.
“Deciding where to locate a new data center is a multi-year process that considers dozens of different factors, including access to renewable energy, connectivity, and a strong local talent pool,” said Facebook spokesperson Jennifer Hakes in response to TechCrunch. “An essential factor, however, is ensuring that we can protect any user data stored in the facility…this was the key point that Mark Zuckerberg emphasized in his post last week,” said Hakes. “We looked at all these factors carefully in Singapore and determined that it was the right location for our first data center in Asia.”