As Facebook continues to face scrutiny over the quality of encryption and security features that it is providing across all of its platforms, there is fresh piece of information coming in via NYT in the same context. According to a report published in the New York Times, Facebook is now looking to integrate the underlying technical infrastructure of all of its messaging services — Whatsapp, Instagram and Messenger — into one. That will essentially 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.
Post integration though, the apps will continue to remain the stand-alone apps that they are today and it won’t really affect the overall user experience. Facebook says, that it wants to provide end-to-end encryption — the tech that only lets recipient see the messages received by them — across all its platforms.
Why do this you ask ? Well, one obvious reason is to defend itself from the plethora of anti-trust regulatory eyes that are on Facebook right now. Legislators across the globe have been trying to push the company into revealing all sorts of information on whom the Governments feel, are criminal suspects. End to end encryption and a larger integration of all of its messaging platforms will make it much harder for regulators to break Facebook into revealing information.
Now, while the above reasoning may sound good for user privacy, there is a caveat to all of this. While end-to-end encryption does make the platforms more secure, the technology does not always conceal metadata – information about who is talking to whom – sparking concern among some researchers that the data might be shared. Also, the social networking giant could very well use this Metadata to learn more on users, thus helping it push up its advertising revenues. This will come in as a massive push and advertisers would be willing to pay more than ever, considering they are getting more precise information than ever on their target customers.
In a brief interview with Reuters, former Facebook Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos has talked about other probable leak outs from this integration. For example, Messenger currently does not necessarily require your phone numbers, thus allowing even stranger folks, who are not your friends on Facebook, to contact you. With this integration, that could change.
Stamos said he hoped Facebook would get public input from terrorism experts, child safety officers, privacy advocates and others and be transparent in its reasoning when it makes decisions on the details.