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Plans to integrate WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger underway

End-to-end encryption. After the changes, a Facebook user, for instance, will be able send an encrypted message to someone who has only a WhatsApp account. (REUTERS PHOTO)

NEW YORK – Facebook is planning to unify the underlying messaging infrastructure of the WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger services and incorporate end-to-end encryption into these apps, the New York Times reported Friday.

The three services will, however, continue as stand-alone apps, the report said.

Facebook said it is working on adding end-to-end encryption, which protects messages from being viewed by anyone except the participants in a conversation, to more of its messaging products, and considering ways to make it easier for users to connect across networks.

“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,” a spokesperson said.

According to the daily, after the changes, a Facebook user, for instance, will be able send an encrypted message to someone who has only a WhatsApp account.

We don’t sell users’ data

Meanwhile, Facebook co-founder and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg has once again defended his business, arguing that targeting ads based on interests was different from selling people’s data.

“If we are committed to serving everyone, then we need a service that is affordable to everyone,” Zuckerberg said in an opinion piece published in the Wall Street Journal. “The best way to do that is to offer services for free, which ads enable us to do.”

AFP reported Friday that last year was horrific for Facebook because it was marked by a series of scandals over data protection and privacy. There were also concerns that the social network had been manipulated by politicians.

Despite the scandals, Facebook revenue and user numbers have continued to grow, according to the chief executive.

Facebook uses “signals” such as pages users “like” and what they share about themselves to target advertising. “Sometimes this means people assume we do things that we don’t do…for example, we don’t sell people’s data…”

“Another question is whether we leave harmful or divisive content up because it drives engagement. We don’t,” he said.

Selling user data would not only undermine essential trust in the social network, it would go against Facebook’s business interests because rivals could use it to compete for advertising, Zuckerberg said.

Facebook has also been criticised for being used as a platform to spread divisive or misleading information.

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