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Facebook emphasises security drive during third-quarter earnings call

Social media giant admits it has a lot of work to do to keep on top of security as it looks to extend payment option to Messenger

Facebook has posted third-quarter revenue of $13.3bn for the three months ending September 2018, an increase of one-third on the same period last year. Security remains a strong focus as the company extends Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

In the third quarter of 2018, mobile advertising revenue represented about 92% of advertising, up from 88% in the third quarter of 2017.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook was seeing consumers make more use of private messaging, which they share with a small group of friends, over public messaging. The company plans to add a payment facility to Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, he said.

Zuckerberg admitted that security was something the company needed to improve. In a transcript of the earnings call posted on the Seeking Alpha financial blogging site, Zuckerberg said: “We continue to face increased safety and security threats. We have significantly improved our systems here, but we have more to do. We will also keep pushing our messaging services to be more private and secure. ”

Asked about the security investments Facebook was making, Zuckerberg said: “I do think that we are up against sophisticated adversaries who will continue to evolve, so there is a large element of this which is an arms race. And when you’re talking about security issues and some of the safety and content issues, these are not problems that we fix.

“They are problems that you manage over time and try to reduce and prevent issues from coming up, but there is no silver bullet where you do the thing and then you’re done. That said, I do think we were quite behind where we needed to be a couple of years ago.

“We started a roadmap which we said was going to be about a three-year roadmap. I think we have some confidence in that timeframe, which takes us through the end of about 2019 to get our systems to the level that we generally think that they should be at where we’re building AI [artificial intelligence] systems that can flag content that might be problematic to a much larger security and review team that can manage the larger volume of stuff that our tools are flagging to them.”

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The company also admitted that its results in Europe may have been affected by the recent introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Answering a question during the earnings call about the results in Europe, Facebook chief financial officer David Wehner said: “We had some impact from GDPR over the last two quarters. I think we are still seeing good growth in Europe on the revenue front, and a lot of the similar dynamics playing out in Europe as in the rest of the world where you see good impression growth opportunity, especially in areas like Instagram and Stories contributing to overall ability to drive revenue growth.”

Earlier in October, the UK privacy watchdog confirmed that Facebook had escaped a fine of more than $1bn under the GDPR, but would face the maximum penalty under the Data Protection Act for failing to protect users’ personal information.

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