Integrating the three platforms will allow users to send and receive message cross platform.
According to a news report by The New York Times Facebook is considering an integration of its three messaging platforms- Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp allowing users to send and receive message cross platform which is not possible as of now.
Facebook is in the middle of various privacy scandals right now and the founders of both Instagram and WhatsApp have quit the company with objections to centralized control. And now the company is planning to merge its three most popular messaging platforms which rings privacy alarm.
According to the report the plans are coming directly from Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of the company himself, and the merger will ascertain his authority even more over the company’s divisions.
For the merger it would require rewriting the basic software of the three apps to ensure they were interoperable. The merger without a doubt will bring convenience to users but will also bring privacy concerns with it. With the merger users will be able to communicate cross platform, such as a WhatsApp user will be able to directly send message to the Messenger or Instagram without having any of the two accounts and will have no need to switch between accounts.
The merger will bring about more than 2.5 billion users of WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger together and will make it easier to communicate in between but raises some serious privacy concerns. Zuckerberg has ordered his employees to incorporate end-to-end encryption in all three platforms which does not allow anyone, other than the participants themselves even Facebook itself to view the conversation.
WhatsApp already uses the encryption, Messenger provides selective encryption with its ‘secret conversation’ and Instagram does not use any form of encryption.
Facebook’s decision comes at a turbulent time for the company when its trust level is at the lowest level and various privacy scandals like Cambridge Analytica and allowing access to data of users to companies like Amazon, Netflix and Spotify. When founders of both Instagram and WhatsApp quit the company it was assumed it was because of the control held by Zuckerberg and the extinction of autonomy for both divisions.
Way back in 2012 when Facebook acquired Instagram for $1 billion Zuckerberg wrote in his statement “We need to be mindful about keeping and building on Instagram’s strengths and features rather than just trying to integrate everything into Facebook.”
“WhatsApp will remain autonomous and operate independently. There would have been no partnership between our two companies if we had to compromise on the core principles that will always define our company, our vision and our product,” read Jan Koum’s blog post when WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook for $19 billion.
The plans for the merger seems puzzling though as E2E encryption will make it harder for Facebook to show targeted ads to users. On another note though it will provide Facebook the benefit of security. According to some antitrust experts the consolidation will make it harder for law enforcement to force Facebook to spin off either of the two apps in the future which they think should be done.
Encrypted messaging has long been supported by privacy advocates who believe it provides security against the government and hackers. But it will raise other issues for Facebook, regarding its ability to fish out illicit activity and fake information and news. WhatsApp recently rolled out an update will limit the number of times a user can forward a message to counter spread of fake news and rumors. Either way E2E or not the merger sounds dubious and you should be very concerned.