WhatsApp, Instagram, Messenger to be merged into one platform

The unification has already come under fire for being privacy disaster in the making

Facebook's Founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook's founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, is currently considering a change in the online messaging game by combining WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger into one unified platform. Until now, the three biggest messaging networks have been run as separate and competing products and after their integration the services will still continue to function as stand-alone apps. There is however one big “but” in the whole situation - at a much deeper level, their technical infrastructure will be one.

According to a statement given by Facebook, the newly created platform would allow social media users to communicate across three different platforms for the first time in history by offering them a “fast, simple, reliable and private messaging system”. But by merging the apps into one, which would have a total of more than 2.6 billion users, Zuckerberg obviously hopes to increase Facebook's usage and engagement with the brand, as well, in order to reduce the reach of existing competitors such as Apple and Google. Furthermore, instant messaging could be an important way to grow revenues in the future, with payment services and in-app payments potentially being worth hundreds of millions.

And even though the project is estimated to be complete by the end of early 2020, Zuckerberg might not get what he wants this time. Especially since the overhaul has already raised quite significant regulation and privacy concerns with many cybersecurity experts and data privacy regulators worrying that the execution is going to probably be just another mess at Facebook, which could take a major hit on how securely people use these platforms.

Such an opinion was first expressed by Electronic Privacy Information Centre's President and CEO Marc Rotenberg who insisted that the merge would be “a terrible outcome for internet users”. This week, the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) also issued a statement in which it said it understood the plan was at a “very early conceptual stage”, but also stressed it would be “closely scrutinising Facebook's plans” and insisted on getting an “urgent briefing” on the proposals. In its statement, the Dublin-headquartered Irish watchdog added that such measures are needed since “previous proposals to share data between Facebook companies have given rise to significant data protection concerns and the Irish DPC will be seeking early assurances that all such concerns will be fully taken into account by Facebook in further developing this proposal”.

“It must be emphasised that ultimately the proposed integration can only occur in the EU if it is capable of meeting all of the requirements of the GDPR,” the statement also read, with DPC speculating that it might bar the merge over privacy concerns.

Obviously such a threat scared Facebook as two days after that the company hired Nate Cardozo, formerly the top legal counsel at privacy watchdog Electronic Frontier Foundation and a prominent Facebook critic, to a privacy role at WhatsApp. Cardozo will also be joined by Open Technology Institute alum Robyn Green, who announced Tuesday on Twitter that she would become Facebook's privacy policy manager with her role being focused on “law enforcement access and data protection issues”.

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