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Mark Zuckerberg just released a predictably misleading defense of Facebook's data practices

26 January, 2019, 04:01 | Author: Vicki Mclaughlin
  • WhatsApp and Facebook messenger icons are seen on an iPhone in Manchester, Britain

According to a report in the New York Times, Facebook's chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, has ordered developers to rebuild the three services "at their most basic levels".

Analysis In an unprecedented decision that has left tech observers struggling to contain their shock, Facebook has chose to create a common software architecture for its three main apps: Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp.

The plan is to keep the apps as stand-alone networks, but have them contained on a unified underlying message infrastructure. So, for example, a Facebook user would be able to engage in a chat with someone on Instagram who doesn't even have a Facebook account.

Zuckerberg also wants end-to-end encryption for all three chat platforms. At the time that Facebook bought the firms, Zuckerberg promised WhatsApp and Instagram plenty of autonomy from its parent company.

WhatsApp's founders, Jan Koum and Brian Acton also left Facebook, again apparently due to similar concerns.

"We want to build the best messaging experiences we can, and people want messaging to be fast, simple, reliable and private", offered an official Facebook statement. But additional data indicates that, in fact, the more we know about how Facebook works, the less trustworthy it becomes.

It's all a far cry from 10 years ago when all messenger services could easily coexist thanks to the common XMPP standard, but as user demands outstripped the technology, one-by-one they all moved to proprietary systems.

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On the principle of ad targeting, Zuckerberg writes that users want ads to be relevant, and to do this Facebook needs to "understand their interests" - but ultimately, users have transparency and control over how their information is used.

On Dec. 7, employees gathered around microphones at WhatsApp's offices to ask Mr. Zuckerberg why he was so invested in merging the services.

Part of the problem is that Facebook requires you to provide your real identity, while WhatsApp is often favoured for its anonymity. This seems to pose a challenge against the linking the instant messaging services.

And they'd say Cambridge Analytica sure got a lot of information from Facebook, perhaps for a fee.

To be clear, Facebook isn't going to take these services and merge them under a new single one.

But the benefits to Facebook are significant, including the ability to get rid of numerous (very expensive) software engineers that are now needed to support three different products.

When the apps are knitted together, Facebook Marketplace buyers and sellers in Southeast Asia would be able to reach out and communicate with each other using WhatsApp - which is popular there - rather than using Facebook Messenger or another, non-Facebook text messaging service.

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