Facebook plans to merge Messenger, Whatsapp and Instagram chats

Ellen Fitzpatrick

messages could be linked and exchanged between each app but would be coded to allow messages, and their contents, to remain private

Facebook have confirmed that they are planning to connect Messenger, Whatsapp and Instagram and allow for integrated usage of the apps.

The merging of these apps is said to allow for encrypted missives to be exchanged despite which of its services are being used.

Facebook, the network behind each of these three independent messaging apps, now aims to merge all three so messages can be displayed across all platforms and each can be further integrated.

“We’re working on making more of our messaging products end-to-end encrypted and considering ways to make it easier to reach friends and family across networks,” a Facebook spokeswoman said in reply to an AFP inquiry regarding a New York Times report about this new development.

This essentially means that messages could be linked and exchanged between each app but would be coded to allow messages and their contents, to remain private and confidential to each user.

“As you would expect, 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,” the spokesperson added.

Facebook stated that they wanted to “build the best messaging experiences we can; and people want messaging to be fast, simple, reliable and private.”

Each messaging app will continue to stand alone as an individual app but the inner workings of each will be merged to form one and the technical infrastructure will be altered, four people involved in the transition said.

It is set to be completed by the end of this year or by early next year and it requires thousands of Facebook’s employees to figure out how Whatsapp, Instagram and Messenger work on a basic level and go from there, employees involved also said.

Many have expressed concern for this new plan that Facebook is planning. Privacy advocates have shown questions of the potential creation of a unified identity for people across each of the messaging platforms, meaning each message goes to the right place.

The Irish Data Protection Commission have also expressed concerns, asking Facebook to have an urgent briefing on this plan.

“While we understand that Facebook’s proposal to integrate the Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram platforms is at a very early conceptual stage of development, the Irish DPC has asked Facebook Ireland for an urgent briefing on what is being proposed,” the Irish Data Protection Commission said in a statement.

“The Irish DPC will be very closely scrutinising Facebook’s plans as they develop, particularly insofar as they involve the sharing and merging of personal data between different Facebook companies,” it added.

“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.”

Facebook attempted to secure and share personal details and user data that got from Whatsapp in 2016, but was cancelled shortly after following an investigation by the UK data protection.

As of now, Whatsapp’s messages are end to end encrypted by default but Messenger allows for “secret conversations”, while Instagram doesn’t offer any of these for their chats.

Plans for this merge are still in the early stages and not much has been announced as to how this will develop further. This move in the company could increase the ease and number of secured conversations online.

Ellen Fitzpatrick

Image credit: Michael Walsh