Facebook Inc Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg is planning to unify the underlying messaging infrastructure of the WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger services and incorporate end-to-end encryption in these apps, the New York Times reported on Friday.
The three services will, however, continue as stand-alone apps, the report said, citing four people involved in the effort.
Facebook said it is working on adding end-to-end encryption, which protects users from being connected to anyone, including more about its messaging products, and users to connect with it to make it easier.
“There is a lot of discussion and debate as we begin the long
process of figuring out all the details of how this will work,” a
After the changes, a Facebook user,
for example, will be able
send an encrypted message to
someone who has only aWhatsApp
account, according to the New York Times report.
Integrating the messaging services could make it harder for
antitrust regulators to break up Facebook by undoing its
acquisitions of WhatsApp and Instagram, said Sam Weinstein, a
professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.
“If Facebook is worried about that then one way it will defend
itself is to integrate those services,” Weinstein said.
But Weinstein said that breaking
up Facebook is viewed as an
“extreme remedy” by regulators,
especially in the United States,
so concerns over antitrust scrutiny
may not have been a factor
behind the integration.
Some former Facebook security engineers and an outside
encryption expert said the plan could be good news for user
privacy, in particular by extending end-to-end encryption.
“I’m cautiously optimistic it’s a good thing,” said former Facebook
Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos, who now teaches at Stanford
University. “My fear was that we were
going to drop end-to-end
However, the technology does not
always reveal the metadata –
information about who is talking to whom – sparking concern
among some researchers
Any metadata integration will likely be Facebook learn more about
users, linking identifiers such
as phone numbers and email
addresses for those using the
services independently of each other
Facebook used that data to
charge more for advertising and
would also have ads based on
message content in Messenger and Instagram.
Other major tradeoffs will have
also made, Stamos and others
Messenger allows strangers to contact people without knowing
their phone numbers, for example,
increasing the risk of stalking
and approaches to children
Systems based on phone numbers have additional privacy
concerns, because governments
and other entities can easily
access them from location information.
Stamos said he hoped Facebook will get public input from
terrorism experts, child safety officers, privacy advocates and
others and details on decisions
made when it’s
transparent in its
“It should be an open process,
because you can
not have it all,”