Facebook is looking to use homomorphic encryption as a way to serve ads in encrypted chat and communications — to the surprise of no one.
Homomorphic encryption is the next generation of encryption technology. The technology allows calculations to be performed without decrypting data. For example, Party A could encrypt two values, give them to Party B and tell them to add them together. Party B could perform the calculation and pass the encrypted result back to Party A for verification. Throughout the process, Party B would not know any of the values, including the calculated one.
Many industries see homomorphic encryption as a way to protect data at every step of the way, not just when it’s being stored or in transit. The cloud industry, in particular, sees it as valuable way of securing the industry against cyberattacks.
Facebook, in contrast, wants to use the technology as a way to serve ads in encrypted WhatsApp messages and other forms of encrypted communication, according to The Information. Fully homomorphic encryption is still a ways off, but the company has been hiring artificial intelligence experts in an effort to crack it. Theoretically, using homomorphic encryption would allow the company to offer its users security and privacy, while not jeopardizing its core advertising business.
Somehow, it’s not surprising that Facebook — a company with a long-standing history of abusing consumer privacy — is looking to use the next great evolution of encryption to keep monetizing people’s data.