Facebook’s Zucker-punch: Merging Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp

What’s going on here?

Facebook, owners of Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp, opens up about plans to merge its messaging services.

What does this mean?

This merger will see Mark Zuckerberg backtrack on his previous promise to allow Instagram and WhatsApp to remain free from Facebook. So, does this mean that we’ll be left a single app rather than three? No, the three apps are still set to be separate on the surface, but deep down they will be linked to open up the possibility of ‘cross-platform messaging’. Thus, a Messenger user will be able to text a WhatsApp user without having to use the same app as them. 

Not everyone is on board with Facebook’s goal to create ‘the best messaging services’. It’s rumoured that these plans have caused tension among the companies. It is no coincidence that the founders of Instagram and WhatsApp decided to throw in the towel and call it quits in recent months as the fear of their apps being consumed by the social media giant grows.

At the moment, the project is aiming to be complete by early 2020.

What’s the big picture effect?

This ambitious move by Facebook will clearly be a blow to individuals that prefer to keep their data private. As the apps currently operate independently from one another, it means that the data that they collect from users is independent too. While WhatsApp allows users to remain largely anonymous by requiring a phone number only, Facebook and Messenger require a lot of personal information from people. Therefore, in merging the platforms and adding to its collection of personal information, Facebook would be handed the keys to a detailed database of its users. Naturally, this has raised widespread privacy and data protection issues. For many, this may just be too invasive.

Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (that regulates the social network in the EU) are keeping tabs on the situation with increasing concern. This isn’t the first time Facebook has drawn attention to the way it handles data - earlier this year, the UK’s Information Commissioner conducted investigations into the controversial data-sharing between WhatsApp and Facebook.

Considering the patchy reputation Facebook has built for itself from its untrustworthy data-handling practices (such as its involvement in the Cambridge Analytica scandal), it remains to be seen whether the project will end up being an innovative breakthrough or just a step too far.

Report written by Joshua L.

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