Facebook persists in wanting to link WhatsApp and Messenger

While Messenger and Instagram are now interconnected, Facebook is trying to add in the WhatsApp loop. But what if apps don’t have the same approach to chat privacy?

For more than two years, Facebook has in the works a vast engineering project consisting in making interoperable the chat services of its three platforms, namely Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp. However, if the social network managed in 2020 to interconnect the first two, the third continues to stand apart. That said, the social network does not intend to give up.

The site WABetaInfo, which strives to know before its time the upcoming features of the instant messaging service, points, in its edition of April 16, clues of rapprochement between Messenger and WhatsApp. The visual that was shared on this occasion shows an integration of a WhatsApp chat within Facebook Messenger.

The work initiated by Facebook aims to create a common chat platform, regardless of the service on which you are registered: you could thus speak with someone on Messenger, while being yourself on Instagram. This would require certain concessions, such as agreeing to interconnect your data to find contacts elsewhere, in exchange for which Facebook would offer a global chat.

One service is encrypted by default, the other is not

Unlike Instagram and Messenger, WhatsApp is based on a particular technical principle: end-to-end encryption, which aims to make chat content inaccessible to people who are not part of it. However, there is no end-to-end encryption by default on the first two services, unlike WhatsApp, which has made it an argument since 2016.

On Messenger, however, there is an option to enjoy end-to-end encrypted discussions. These are the secret conversations. However, these are not enabled by default. Also, if you start one with someone you’re already chatting with, it’ll be a separate chat, separate from the thread you already have with them.

It seems inconceivable that Facebook would sacrifice end-to-end encryption on WhatsApp. This could, in fact, scare some users away – the application was already at the heart of a controversy earlier this year, because the new conditions of use of the platform, which will come into force in mid-May , strengthen ties with Facebook a little more.

As of 2016, end-to-end encryption by default has been operational on WhatsApp. // Source: Illustration Lucie Benoit for Numerama

Therefore, the only realistic and feasible solution in the short term is to align Messenger and Instagram with the WhatsApp standard, namely end-to-end encryption by default, based on the same protocol – in this case the Signal protocol, which is very reputable and which several other leading services use, such as Skype or Google Messages.

By moving in this direction, Facebook would, in fact, give a big boost to the security and privacy of online discussions. This would restore, in passing, its image tarnished by the regular controversies over its economic model, based on targeted advertising. The scale of this shift would be considerable, however, as it would affect literally billions of conversations.

End-to-end encryption ensures that only the sender and recipient of a message can read it – if the encryption protocol is well implemented and is robust enough to withstand attacks. Even Facebook, in this situation, cannot access end-to-end encrypted threads.

Obviously, this method is not infallible in all cases: for example, cryptography cannot do much if the attacker has access to the smartphone of one of the two correspondents, or to his computer – since ‘it would use connected and authenticated sessions. Ditto if the law gets involved. Nevertheless, end-to-end encryption proves to be sufficient protection to meet many situations.

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Source: Numerama by www.numerama.com.

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