• Plans to unify the WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger messaging infrastructure.
  • However, the three services will continue as stand-alone apps.
  • Facebook is working to add end-to-end encryption for more messaging apps.

Facebook Inc.'s Mark, Mark Zuckerberg, plans to unify the underlying messaging infrastructure of WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger services and integrate end-to-end encryption into these apps, the New York reported Times on Friday.

However, the three services will continue as separate apps, the report said, with four people involved in the effort.

Facebook said it is working to add end-to-end encryption that causes messages to be displayed not only by the participants in a conversation, but also most of its messaging products. It also considers how users can facilitate the connection between networks.

"There is much debate and debate as we begin the lengthy process of identifying all the details of how this will work," a spokesman said.

For example, after the changes, a Facebook user can send an encrypted message to someone who has only a WhatsApp account, according to the New York Times report.

Integration of the messaging services could make it more difficult for antitrust authorities to break Facebook by reversing the acquisition of WhatsApp and Instagram, said Sam Weinstein, a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.

"If Facebook worries about it, one way to defend oneself is to integrate those services," said Weinstein.

According to Weinstein, the separation of Facebook from regulators, especially in the US, is considered an "extreme remedy". Concern over antitrust control may not have affected integration.

Important compromises
Some former Facebook security engineers and an external encryption expert said the plan could be good news for users' privacy, especially by extending end-to-end encryption.

"I'm cautiously optimistic, it's a good thing," said former Facebook security officer Alex Stamos, who now teaches at Stanford University. "I'm worried that the end-to-end encryption will disappear."

However, the technology does not always hide metadata - information about who is talking to whom - which gives some researchers a concern that the data may be shared.

By integrating metadata, Facebook may learn more about users by independently linking identifiers, such as phone numbers and email addresses, to users of the services.

Facebook may use this data to charge more for advertising and targeted services, although ads based on messaging content in Messenger and Instagram must be dropped.

Other big compromises have to be made too, said Stamos and others.

Messenger allows strangers to connect with people without knowing their phone numbers. For example, this increases the risk of stalking and approaching children.

Phone number-based systems have additional privacy concerns as governments and other entities can easily extract location information from it.

Stamos said he hoped Facebook would seek out public information from terrorism experts, child protection officers, privacy advocates and others, and make his argument transparent when making decisions about the details.

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