Facebook Plan to Merge Instant Messaging Services Raises Eyebrows
The popularity of social media services like Facebook needs no elaboration anywhere nowadays. Not when they keep making money!
However, for the last couple of years, the popular social networking service owned by Mark Zuckerberg has faced lots of brickbats and ire of the users.
The data privacy violation issues faced by millions of users left the firm scurrying for answers and everyone knows how serious the Cambridge Anlytica scandal was.
Facebook resorted to various measures to assure the users about the safety of their data and tweaked its data sharing and retention norms. The damage was mostly done though.
Fresh data privacy woes to haunt Facebook
The dust of the Cambridge Analytica issue has not settled fully. Facebook may have to face more data privacy violation related hassles; as is clear from the newest developments.
Late last year, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced his plan to merge the existing instant messaging and social media services owned by the company.
It is quite well known that Facebook now owns platforms like WhatsApp and Instagram. Both of these apps are also extremely popular and used by several million users across the world.
The announcement by Zuckerberg to bring a new unified platform for instant messaging instead of floating 3 separate platforms with many similarities has caused security concerns.
The CEO also said the firm’s move is aimed at addressing rising data security and privacy woes faced by many of its users.
However, it will take place in 2020. The amalgamation will help the company to simplify services and offer end-to-end encryption which is now offered only in Whatsapp.
The apps will still operate freely, but the backend setup will get merged. This may make things easier for both the users and the service provider eventually.
The First Wave of Scrutiny Has Arrived
The declaration has made the users of its services jittery. It may also subject the company to enhanced regulatory scrutiny.
Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp are used by several million users in many countries. The governments in those countries may react to the merging move. However, the first one to analyze the latest move by Facebook is IDPC.
The Irish Data Protection Commission is probably the first regulatory entity to question Facebook on nuances on this move and its implications on the users. It has asked Facebook to submit an urgent briefing on the matter.
The entity has also voiced its concern on possible data security breach issues the merger can cause.
Of late, the EU has become vocal about websites and companies indulging in online operations to adhere to the latest security and data safety protocols. The IDPC wants the move to be made in such a way that it adheres to the norms of GDPR.
More Hurdles on the Way for the FB Merger
It is not only IDPC that has skepticism regarding the viability of the proposal to merge Facebook with WhatsApp and Instagram.
Even ex-employees of WhatsApp and Instagram are critical and vocal about the move of Zuckerberg. Brian Acton, the WhatsApp co-founder, said in an interview that a few years back, the company had taken a different stance on the merger of services and this new move is like a U-turn.
The plan of Facebook has also been lambasted by Ro Khanna, a Silicon Valley congressman. He said the firm first acquired Instagram and WhatsApp to vanquish competition and now wants to merge operations.
Veteran antitrust lawyers are of the view Zuckerberg will have a tough time finalizing this plan. The company is likely to be slapped with more antitrust actions.
After the merger of operations, the data of users will be stored in one place. They will no longer have the right to choose one service provider for enhanced data privacy. This can make the social media service users soft targets for hackers and malicious users. They just need to target one place for getting data of billions of users.
What Does the Future Look Like for Facebook?
A section of lawmakers and regulators have been vocal about tackling Facebook privacy breach issues by deploying fresh antitrust regulations. However, there are others who feel that is not a prudent move.
They think the social media form should have been stopped from acquiring WhatsApp or Instagram. Facebook acquired Instagram and WhatsApp in 2012 and 2014 respectively, for $1 billion and $19 billion. The company did not get embroiled in legal hassles until 2018.
After the Cambridge analytic hullabaloo, CEO Mark Zuckerberg was almost forced to clarify legal stance of his company on user data privacy. Since then, every move of the company is being scrutinized.
At any rate, the company will have to clear many legal hurdles before it can move forward with the proposed service amalgamation plan.