Zuckerberg to Merge WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger: Reports

By Jeremy Sandberg

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has plans to combine the infrastructure of Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp and add the option of end to end encryption for users, according to a report from the New York Times published on Jan. 25.

The three platforms will continue to exist as stand alone apps but users will be able to send messages to each other regardless of which platform they are using.

Encryption will prevent anyone outside the conversation from seeing the messages. However, the technology is said to not always conceal meta-data and who is engaged in a conversation.

According to the report from the New York Times, one point of concern arising from the merge would be if user data was to be shared between the different platforms.

WhatsApp currently needs the user’s phone number to create an account whereas Facebook Messenger requires a user to provide their identity. Matching user data to phone number between accounts could be viewed as problematic for users who prefer to keep apps independent.

One reason for combining the platforms is that Facebook might face anti-trust problems moving forward for its monopoly on messaging services. In this scenario, Facebook could then say they are actually one service.

If the apps are combined into one infrastructure, the utility of Facebook would increase and keep users more engaged, and less likely to use competing services offered by companies such as Google, Apple, and Tencent. It could also increase potential for advertising revenue, by reaching more customers and offering more comprehensive and expensive user data to advertising clients.

Facebook Controversy

Facebook booth during the World Economic Forum
Facebook booth during the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland on Jan. 24, 2019. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images)

Campaigns to “delete Facebook” recently appeared after allegations surfaced that the company allows Netflix and Spotify to access the private messages of Facebook users and allows Microsoft’s Bing search engine to see the names of every Facebook user’s friends without consent.

In a Dec. 18 report, it was revealed that Facebook had shared more personal user data with 150 other technology companies, such as Amazon and Microsoft.

Facebook also had to face the outcome of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which resulted in Zuckerberg assuring lawmakers that the firm would tighten data policies.

In December, a British parliamentary committee released internal Facebook emails that disclosed the company had debated whether it would allow app developers who had advertised with them more access to user data. In other cases, the emails debated if Facebook would shut off companies it saw as competition.

A major concern is the security of Facebook’s data. Recently a data breach occurred that affected more than 50 million accounts.

The data breach involved hackers that exploited a Facebook code that affected the “View As” feature.

Facebook Logo on a smartphone
A man shows the logo of social network Facebook displayed on a smartphone in Nantes, France, on Jan. 15, 2019. (Loic Venance/AFP/Getty Images)

Attorney General Karl Racine filed a lawsuit on Dec. 19 against Facebook for failing to protect user data. The suit pointed out that Facebook’s loose data policies enabled companies and other third-party applications to collect data, making reference to the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The number of privacy breaches has damaged Facebook’s share price and sparked official investigations into the company.

According to Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index, Zuckerberg lost more than $20 billion last year, ending up at a net worth of $49.7 billion after starting the year with a total net worth of $72.8 billion.

Sheryl Sandberg COO of Facebook
Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, speaks during the Digital-Life-Design conference in Munich, Germany. on Jan. 20, 2019. (Lino Mirgeler/AFP/Getty Images)

According to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in September last year, more than 1 in 4 Americans have deleted the Facebook app from their mobile phones. 81 percent of users said they had little or no confidence in the company to protect their data and privacy, according to a survey done by Business Insider.

The Pew survey revealed that over half of Facebook users 18 years old and up have changed their privacy settings in the past 12 months, indicating the importance of digital privacy to users.

Facebook has recently faced criticisms for marking nonpolitical advertisements as political content and censoring conservative voices.

Bowen Xiao contributed to this report.