The Silver Lining in Facebook's Privacy Nightmare

Privacy advocates and journalists have known for years that the tech behemoth Facebook, Inc. threatens our privacy. The company owns three of the most popular social media platforms – Facebook.com, Instagram, and Whatsapp. Each of them are free to use, but Facebook, Inc. posted $55 billion in advertising revenue in 2018. Their advertising revenue was 98.5% of their total revenue for that year and the percentage is expected to increase to 99% in 2020.

In order to make so much money from selling advertisements, Facebook tracks its billions of users both on and off Facebook.com with artificial intelligence to determine "how they will behave, what they will buy, and what they will think." Then, Facebook uses these predictions to serve the users advertisements. Even though they claim that they do not sell your data, they used it to generate $22.1 billion of profit in 2018 alone.

Despite all of these concerns, there is one feature that Facebook has offered since June 2015 to improve its users' privacy and security: support for Pretty Good Privacy encrypted email communications. This security feature is one that the vast majority of companies still lack even if they make millions in profits.

What is Pretty Good Privacy Encrypted Email?

Pretty Good Privacy, or PGP, is an end-to-end encryption system that ensures that emails can't be read or tampered with by third-parties while they're in transit from the senders to the recipients.

For Facebook, this means third-parties won't be able to see your password reset information and any notifications for comments, posts, and chats that you're following. Facebook knows about almost everything you do on its platforms, but the encryption prevents anyone who intercepts your email from knowing as well.

Companies usually do not offer encrypted support for customer service and notifications because it is costly and difficult to implement, and many users don't know how to use it anyway, so it's simply not a priority.

Encrypted, Ephemeral Customer Service at Standard Notes

All of the Standard Notes apps, servers, and extensions are free and open source because our mission is to protect your privacy and security. As part of that mission, we’re proud to offer you end-to-end encrypted, ephemeral customer service at standardnotes@protonmail.com.

To use this service, you’ll need to sign up for a free account at ProtonMail.com. You can also use the browser extension Mailvelope with your current email provider to send us end-to-end encrypted emails, but you’ll need ProtonMail to make them ephemeral.

Private Customer Service Improves the User Experience

We know that customer service is an essential part of the user experience and that privacy is an important component of customer service.

We understand that, as users of products and services ourselves, we sometimes struggle to master all of the features that it offers, no matter how simple the product is and how technically adept we are.

Sometimes we want to be able to find the answers ourselves, so we write help files and documentation for you to read at your own pace. But we're also aware that, as users, we want it to be okay to admit when we're struggling, when we're frustrated, or when we've made a mistake.

We make it more than okay by making it easy to ensure that third-parties don't know about your requests for help and by making it easier to forget that they ever happened. With end-to-end encrypted, ephemeral emails, you can be honest with us without worrying about leaving a permanent mark on the internet.

The Right to be Forgotten

It's obvious that companies should ensure that their users' passwords are stored properly and that their payment information isn't stolen. It's clear that people should be able browse the internet without being tracked and profiled. It's also widely understood that if we choose to leave a service, we should be able to delete all of our account data.

We have the right to control our data, and that should mean that we have the right to prevent third-parties from reading our support inquiries and the right to delete our old emails with customer support.

Using a product or service can require emotional energy, especially if we're using it to safeguard our most private, intimate thoughts. All of us feel anxious sometimes, especially when we think about the worst case scenarios.

Even though asking for help doesn't need to be embarrassing or stressful, we know from personal experience that it sometimes can be. We hope that encrypted, ephemeral support can give users a greater sense of confidence by knowing that nobody else will see that they want or need help. We know that, as users, we want to be able to ask for help then move on to enjoy what's next without having to worry or look back at all, for any reason.

Standard Notes is a Safe Place

At the heart of our service is a desire to give you a place where you can be yourself and express your thoughts. We don't profit from selling your personal data because we don't have it and we don't want it. By design, all of your notes are end-to-end encrypted between your devices, so we can’t read any of them. Knowledge of your personal habits, private thoughts, or intimate to-do's would be a liability to us and a direct contradiction to what we stand for. We offer you encrypted, ephemeral customer service so that Standard Notes can be an even safer place for your notes, thoughts, and life's work.


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