Why Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram cross-service encryption can’t happen

Chris Burns - Jan 25, 2019, 12:51 pm CDT
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Why Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram cross-service encryption can’t happen

The proof is in the pudding when it comes to suggested end-to-end encryption of a single messaging system between Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. Today a statement from Facebook suggests that they’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.” But it’s not that sentence that’s important – it’s the one that comes right after it that tells me what I suspect is probably true.

“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,” said the Facebook representative in a statement. This is a safe out – a piece of the statement the group can look back on and say ‘see, we didn’t say we wouldn’t ever change our minds.’

So a few things are happening here, in my opinion. In the years 2012 and 2014, Facebook acquired Instagram and WhatsApp. As we’ve seen in the last several years, previous leaders of those companies have since left the Facebook fold. As CNBC suggests today, those exits were all “amid reports of power struggles and disagreements about advertising strategy.”

Here in January of 2019, it’s suggested that the three major companies will integrate their messaging systems to allow cross-network chat. This would allow the major groups of users on each platform to speak with groups in the others, and would make great strides toward keeping all users in the “family” of Facebook apps. Forever and ever amen.

It’s suggested that Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg is insisting upon encryption – likely to avoid any future controversy about privacy, security, and so forth. But reading between the lines, it seem to me that talk of encryption might only be to put at ease the minds of those worried that this conglomeration might further blur the lines between what’s private, personal, and fair game for Facebook’s advertising engines.

In reality, it’d be a big hit to Facebook’s current money-making machine to consider stopping using the data users provide in messages of all sorts. Saying nothing about privacy, it’d be a logistical nightmare to consider allowing end-to-end encryption between all three of these major social networks without a way to pay for said services directly.

The way Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp pay the bills right now is through the harvesting and utilization of user preferences, activities, and actions. If things have changed since I last looked, I welcome comments on the current state of things.

In my opinion – I say in an attempt to be as clear as possible that this is my view – it’s time to get out, once again. Out of Facebook, out of WhatsApp, and out of Instagram. Out, but ONLY if you’re not comfortable with paying for your services with your own activities, actions, and preferences. If you’d rather pay cash for said things in order to keep your life to yourself, so to speak, then it’s time to find alternative services.


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