Tech Tent: Do we now trust Facebook?

Facebook Dating Image copyright Facebook
Image caption A dating system was one of the big announcements at the F8 gathering

It has been a week where Facebook has gone some way to soothe the concerns of its developers and has seen the company which sparked its data privacy crisis go out of business.

On Tech Tent we ask whether the tide has turned for Facebook - and conclude that it still has a mountain to climb to restore trust.

It was another crucial week for Mark Zuckerberg. Opening Facebook's F8 conference he had to address two audiences.

There were 5,000 developers in the hall who had big concerns about their businesses because their access to data had been restricted following the Cambridge Analytica scandal. And more than two billion Facebook users around the world wanted to know whether they could still trust the company with their data.

Facebook's founder started by addressing that issue, apologising again for the "serious breach of trust" which resulted in Cambridge Analytica acquiring the data of up to 87 million Facebook users.

But he went on to emphasise his mission to "keep on building" - or perhaps keep on muscling into more areas of our lives - by unveiling a new dating service.

After the speech I caught up with Ime Archibong, Facebook's director of product partnerships.

He is the man charged with ensuring that all those developers building businesses on the social network stay happy. That is not an easy task when their access to Facebook data has been restricted in response to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, although Mr Zuckerberg pleased them with a relaxation of the freeze on new apps.

But I put it to Mr Archibong that reassuring Facebook's users was a bigger priority for him and his boss.

"We've got a big job to restore the trust between us and users," he said, and admitted that this would be neither speedy nor simple.

Referring to the ongoing audit of apps which had access to data, to see if there was another case of data misuse similar to that involving Cambridge Analytica, he said: "I expect we'll find some other stuff there."

So there may be more bad news to come.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The F8 conference told developers about the next thing on which Facebook is working

Mr Archibong is a charismatic and popular figure - developers came up to share a joke or grab a selfie with him at the conference, And there was laughter across the hall when Mr Zuckerberg used his profile to illustrate Facebook Dating, telling the audience "You can't have Ime!"

But when I put it to him that launching a dating service during a privacy scandal was a strange move, he went into full-on PR mode. One of the most important things they were trying to do at Facebook was build "meaningful connections" between people.

He had just attended a wedding of a young friend who said his relationship had started with a Facebook photo - and getting into dating was all about the company asking: "How can we continue to make sure that those meaningful relationships happen at scale?"

We will have to see whether Facebook users are willing to trust it with their most sensitive personal information, and get meaningful relationships to happen "at scale" even if they are being told that the dating service will have privacy baked in.

The news that Cambridge Analytica was shutting down broke on the second day of F8 just as I was listening to a rather interesting presentation about Facebook's AI efforts and the ethical challenges they could pose.

It is safe to say there were few tears shed in San Jose about the demise of the political consultancy, but also few illusions that this marks an end to the whole controversy about data privacy.

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