Facebook Is Trying To Analyze Encrypted Data To Target Ads

facebook and whatsapp homomorphic encryption

Facebook is reportedly building a team of AI researchers to analyze encrypted data without decrypting it. Experts told The Information that Facebook could be interested in using this study for targeting ads on WhatsApp despite end-to-end encryption. This is surprising considering the recent difficulties the company has faced due to its privacy policy changes. This new emerging research field is known as homomorphic encryption, and WhatsApp isn’t the only company diving into it.

Major cloud computing giants such as Microsoft, Amazon, and Google are also researching this field. This method can be a workaround for WhatsApp to target ads to users while not exposing them to security threats. However, Will Cathcart, head of WhatsApp, has denied pursuing homomorphic encryption for WhatsApp.

Facebook’s use of Encrypted Data

Although, it would not be surprising to see Facebook pursuing this technology. Using this type of encryption, Facebook can potentially fulfill both its business goals and user privacy. With this, they can maintain WhatsApp end-to-end encryption and user privacy while also gaining more statistics for targeted ads.

What is Homomorphic Encryption?

Homomorphic encryption is a form of encryption that permits users to perform computations on encrypted data without first decrypting it. This helps to analyze or manipulate encrypted data without revealing the data to security threats. Another advantage is that even Quantum computers can’t easily break homomorphic encryption. The encrypted data needs a public key to analyze it without breaking encryption. In total, there are three types of homomorphic encryption.

  • Partially homomorphic encryption (PHE): It helps sensitive data remain confidential by only allowing select mathematical functions to be performed on encrypted values. This means that one operation can be performed an unlimited number of times.
  • Somewhat homomorphic encryption (SHE): It supports limited operations (for example, either addition or multiplication) that can only be performed a certain number of times. This is the precursor to FHE, which is more secure but slow.
  • Fully homomorphic encryption (FHE): This is the gold standard of in this category as it keeps information secure and accessible. It allows anyone to use encrypted data to perform useful operations without access to the encryption key. it provides a way to pull, search, and manipulate the data without having to allow the cloud provider access to your data.

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