Facebook Plans to Integrate WhatsApp and Instagram, and FTC is Urged to Stop It

Written by Bill Toulas
Last updated September 18, 2021

According to The New York Times, Mark Zuckerberg, the boss of the social media giant has ordered the initiation of the process of uniting the technical infrastructure of WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger. The plan is separated in stages, and it is scheduled for completion by the end of this year. Formally, Facebook claims that this merger will allow them to offer a better, more reliable, and more private experience for the users, implemented a global encryption mechanism and a comprehensive security framework. However, people are worried that it’s all about taking the user data collection to the next level.

When Facebook acquired WhatsApp and Instagram, the company declared that their purpose would remain to maintain the independent character of its subsidiaries, allowing them the freedom to handle their own matters in the way that they see fit. During the last months, however, both the founders of Instagram and WhatsApp left their projects suddenly, with rumors pointing Facebook’s aggressive intrusion to their processes as the main reason. With the subsequent revelation of the integration plan, it all adds up.

Naturally, privacy concerns have now hit the roof, and as the executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Marc Rotenberg put it: “this would be a terrible outcome for internet users”. Another voice joining the negative stir comes from California’s Democrat representative Ro Khanna in the form of the following tweet:

Even Facebook’s own employees seem to have trouble understanding the reasons behind the merger, as there are no direct benefits that stem from uniting the technical infrastructure of the three companies. To the contrary, some predict that the merger will introduce more problems than it would solve, and this is another indication that the fusion is done for diametrically opposite reasons.

In the midst of these rushing developments, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) is urged by a group of nine privacy protection organizations to take action through a letter. The letter signed by the coalition doesn’t only propose the blocking of the aforementioned merger, but also the imposing of fines on the basis of not complying with the “Fair Information Practices” legislative context. The letter is also suggesting that Instagram and WhatsApp must be restored as private companies. As it reads: “The evidence is also clear that Facebook breached its commitments to the Commission regarding the protection of WhatsApp user data. As this occurred after the initial consent order, the FTC should require Facebook to unwind the acquisition of both WhatsApp and Instagram.”

FTC has not made an official announcement on the matter, and they are currently occupied with the ongoing Cambridge Analytica data collection scandal investigation. Maybe this development will act as the well-needed push to accelerate the progress of their investigation and force them to intervene in the merger plan decisively. If they fail to react quickly, we will all have to face a huge data collection and exploitation teratogenesis.

Have you had enough with Facebook's approach? Check out our list with the best social networking platform alternatives for 2019.

Are you worried about the developments in the field of social media user data management? Let us know where you stand in the comments below, and don’t forget to share your thoughts with our online community on Facebook and Twitter.

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