Facebook founder and Chief Executive Officer, Mark Zuckerberg, plans to integrate the social network’s messaging services — WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger — asserting his control over the company’s expansive divisions at a time when its business has been surrounded by scandals.
This move will require thousands of Facebook employees to reconfigure how WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger have been functioning at their most basic levels. While all the three services will continue to operate as stand-alone apps, their underlying messaging infrastructure will be unified. Facebook is still in the early stages of working out the kinks and plans to complete it by the end of this year or by early 2020.
The merger will bring together three of the world’s largest messaging networks, which, between them, have more than 2.6 billion users, allowing people to communicate across the platforms for the first time in the history.
Zuckerberg has also ordered all of the apps to incorporate end-to-end encryption, the people said, a significant step that protects messages from being viewed by anyone except the participants in the conversation. After the changes are made and implemented, a Facebook user will be able to send an encrypted message to someone who has only a WhatsApp account, for example. Currently, that is not possible because the applications do not share the same base.
Cross-platform messaging can also lead the way for businesses on one platform to message potential customers on another. It also might make it easier for Facebook to share data across the three platforms, to help its targeted advertising efforts.
It makes Facebook’s suite of applications a much tighter, interwoven collection of services, and, could make the key parts of Facebook’s empire more difficult to break up and spin off if governments and regulators decide that is necessary.
It may be early days for Facebook’s plan to integrate Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram, but one regulator already wants answers.
The Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) has asked Facebook for an “urgent briefing” on the tech giant’s proposal, which will see the three apps continue separately — but have their backend infrastructure unified
A cryptography professor at Johns Hopkins University, Matthew Green, said the change “might potentially be good or bad for security/privacy”.
“But given the recent history and financial motivation
s of Facebook, I wouldn’t bet my money on ‘good’. Now is the best time to start moving important conversations off of those services,” Green added.
Green wrote on Twitter that his two major concerns were that the widespread rollout of E2E could result in WhatsApp getting comparatively more insecure, rather than Facebook Messenger and Instagram becoming more secure; and that WhatsApp users, who currently do not need to share much personal information at all with Facebook, may find their metadata co-mingled with their broader Facebook accounts.