Facebook has reportedly said it is working on adding end-to-end encryption, which protects messages from being viewed by anyone except the participants in a conversation, to more of its messaging products, and considering ways to make it easier for users to connect across networks. This plan boils down to the integration of the top services from Facebook – WhatsApp Messenger, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger.
As growth slows down for Facebook, Chief Executive and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg has decided to take matters into his own hands. Zuckerberg is looking to merging the three major social messaging apps – WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger, a report in the New York Times revealed. This comes after the hectic two years the company has seen with mounting privacy issues, fake news and other political scandals.
By merging these apps together, Zuckerberg hopes to keep users within the company’s ecosystem and “reduce” the number of people moving to services offered by Apple and Google.
The plan, although, in its earlier stages is set up to be completed by the end of 2019 or early 2020.
Data Privacy and security
The report, which was later confirmed by Facebook, further said the social media giant is working a way out where all three apps will incorporate end-to-end encryption to protect messages from being viewed by anyone except the receiver and the sender of the messages.
“My fear was that they were going to drop end-to-end encryption,” former Facebook Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos, who teaches at Stanford University was quoted as saying by Reuters.
However, concern remains as end-to-end encryption does not always conceal metadata, an information about the participants of the conversation – this data, researchers are concerned, might be shared. If the metadata is integrated, it will allow Facebook to learn more about users, leading to identifying linkers such as phone numbers and email addresses even if the users are availing services independently of each other.
This would mean more users to be targeted for more advertising for the combined strength of the user base of Instagram and Messenger.
Other significant trade-offs could be made as well, Stamos and others were quoted in a report by Reuters.
The App infrastructure
Zuckerberg has been talking about this integration for months, but was met with “heavy opposition”, a report by The Sun said.
Zuckerberg’s clash with dozens of WhatsApp employees over the merger during a staff meeting in December was also reported.
Instagram’s founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger left the company in 2018; they were reportedly miffed by Zuckerberg’s “increased grip” on Instagram. WhatsApp cofounders Jan Koum and Brian Acton left as well for similar reasons, said The Sun in a report.
A major concern with Messenger has already been there with the app already allowing strangers to contact people without even knowing their phone numbers.
WhatsApp, on the other hand, is based on phone numbers and therefore has additional privacy concerns as governments and other entities can find out the location information from them.
Facebook runs on an advertisement-driven model, already confirmed by Mark Zuckerberg in his congressional testimony last year, to drive its businesses and services, most of which it offers free of charge.
It remains to be seen how Facebook that owns three major social messaging apps – WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger – will take on the above challenges, without compromising the users’ privacy and security.