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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

15 years after he launched the "digital equivalent of a town square," Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is promising a major shift in the other direction. "I believe the future of communication will increasingly shift to private, encrypted services where people can be confident what they say to each other stays secure and their messages and content won't stick around forever," he announced today.

Why it matters: "That would mark a sharp reversal for Facebook, which has grown into one of the world’s wealthiest companies by inventing exotic new methods of personal data collection," The Verge's Casey Newton writes.

What they're saying: "#1 reason to be suspicious of Zuckerberg’s privacy manifesto today ... It doesn’t say how Facebook is going to make money in a world where it respects our privacy," the Washington Post's tech columnist Geoffrey Fowler tweets.

More from Zuck: "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."

  • "Upholding this principle may mean that our services will get blocked in some countries, or that we won't be able to enter others anytime soon.
  • "That's a tradeoff we're willing to make."

Between the lines: Axios reporters shared thought bubbles on what this means across the company.

  • Facebook users: Internet users are already seeking out private, ephemeral and group-oriented services as alternatives to the reputational risks and pervasive harassment that can accompany public platforms, Axios' Sara Fischer has reported.
  • Facebook's bottom line: The company could enjoy lower operational costs and risk since it will no longer have to invest in as many content moderation efforts on an encryption-based platform, Sara said.
  • Facebook advertisers: The encrypted part could become a big deal if users do more posting in encrypted groups than in public, Axios' Scott Rosenberg notes.
  • Facebook regulators and U.S. lawmakers: This makes it harder for any government to break up Facebook/WhatsApp/Instagram because of the integration of the technological and business parts of the platforms, Axios’ Ina Fried wrote on Slack.

Go deeper: Facebook's reputation is sinking fast

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Bomb cyclone prompts blizzard warnings from Virginia to Maine

Computer model projection showing the intense storm off of Cape Cod on Jan 29, 2022, with heavy snow and strong winds lashing the coastline. (Weatherbell.com)

Blizzard warnings are in effect for 11 million people from coastal Virginia to eastern Maine as a historic winter storm is set to slam the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast beginning Friday.

Why it matters: The storm will bring hazards ranging from zero visibility amid hurricane force wind gusts and heavy snow, to coastal flooding that will erode vulnerable beaches and threaten property from the Jersey shore to coastal Massachusetts.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Contact tracing fizzles across America — New clues emerge on long COVID — Omicron is finally burning out — It's very difficult to get access to antiviral COVID treatments — Axios-Ipsos poll: Omicron's big numbersAnother wave of death — FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly antibody treatments.
  2. Vaccines: Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific vaccine — The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: Virginia AG says public colleges can't mandate COVID vaccines —Alaska governor joins Texas lawsuit over National Guard vaccine mandate — Navy discharges 45 sailors for refusing vaccine — Spotify to remove Neil Young's music after his Joe Rogan ultimatum — White House: 60M households have ordered free COVID-19 rapid tests.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker
5 hours ago - World

Biden will move U.S. troops to Eastern Europe "in the near term"

President Biden boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews on Jan. 28. Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said on Friday he plans to move U.S. troops to Eastern European and NATO countries “in the near term.”

Driving the news: “Not too many” U.S. troops, Biden added in remarks to reporters at Joint Base Andrew upon returning from a trip to Pennsylvania. 

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