FB+IG+WA: The Great Social Media Merge

The world was quite shocked a while back, when a massive data leak showed the dark side of the social media and the overwhelming lack of privacy at the biggest social network on the planet. Since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, people started to take closer look at what the Palo Alto-based online portal does with their users’ data, and a plethora of legal solutions were devised (including the now-famous GDPR) to help combat the slew of privacy concerns voiced by the ordinary folk.

The scandal shed light on less than ethical practices of nearly every major social network, including the stalwarts like Instagram and WhatsApp who are, coincidentally, also owned by Facebook owners. The bad news is, as of recent announcement by Mark Zuckerberg, the three platforms are about to become one.



“We’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. 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,” read the company’s statement on the subject. While the details are not yet set in stone, this move is quite definitely happening in the future.


Why this is good…

In general, the merge is lauded as a step in the right direction to increase the possibility to link up with your friends or loved ones. It’s a no-brainer: your dad may use Facebook’s Messenger app, your student buddies may Insta all the time and your significant other would like to keep tabs on you using your mobile phone… But since no-one’s calling anyone by regular old cell connection, you both WhatsApp instead. According to experts, creating a common platform for all three would first and foremost mean connections are possible cross-platform, making it that much easier to reach someone, post something or simply live in a social digital age.



In layperson’s terms, you can chat with your Messenger-preferring pal from the comfort of your own Instagram chat. The big news is that some security features – all features, really – would be shared between the three services. One example is the so-called “E2E” encryption, i.e. total encoding of any data transferred between two parties speaking over WhatsApp from their respective phones. E2E makes it so that no other person – not even machine collecting data – can use or see that data in any way. This solution has been hailed as a game-changer in terms of privacy and was long WhatsApp’s big selling point.

There are other features, too, such as possibility to delete your messages or post videos, which is either not possible, or hard to do on at least one of the three services. With the merger looming ahead, all three brands will share their technological back-end, meaning features from one service will be easy to roll out in another. This could allow users E2E encrypted talks over Messenger by default – something that is currently possible, but only if you know how to turn it on (and even then you’d have to turn it on individually for each chat).

If the Cambridge Analytica debacle had taught us anything, it’s that we desperately need to rely on our words and thoughts not be overheard, mined or farmed by big corporations. E2E would help alleviate some of such fears. Obviously, the opposite would be true for non-E2E parts, where sharing of the platform between the three brands would also mean sharing of ALL the data currently assumed (and by law required) to be processed separately. So in the wake of the merge, if a user likes a post on FB about a certain product, the platform can use that information to advertise this same product to them on Instagram, something that is not (theoretically) done at the moment. This would be literally a revolution for some businesses that could not yet advertise to WA or Insta users, or take advantage of massive FB page ads and promotions.



The ominous changes…

All is not as it seems, which is quite the norm nowadays in the hi-tech world. The move goes quite obviously in the other direction than the one claimed by Facebook’s head honcho when the two other services, Instagram and WhatsApp, were taken over a while ago – in 2014 and 2012, respectively.

Note, however, the worrying trend: in 2017, the co-founder of WhatsApp Brian Acton left FB, later speaking out publicly against the platform. In 2018, his mate from WA Jan Koum stepped down, too. Just a few months down the line, both guys behind Instagram abandoned ship as well. The two platforms now headless and open to change tack as Zuckerberg would have it, the possible integration could begin in earnest.


Why this is bad…

Matthew Green, cryptography specialist over at John Hopkins University, shared on Twitter that he sees two problems with the move. Firstly, E2E could possibly lower security that currently exists at WhatsApp rather than improve it all over the newly created platform, he claims. Secondly, metadata (impersonal information on what someone liked, shared or posted, used to create targeted advertisements) from WA would be siphoned back into the larger (and as we now know, much deeper and murkier) pool of data over at Facebook. Some users may not want their private chats on WA to be the grounds for any advertising or data mining, no matter how impersonally they would be identified by the system.

The right to control data and to be always in the know of its use is a big issue in Europe. In EU, privacy concerns had already been an issue for Facebook back in 2016, when similar plans to share data between WhatsApp and Facebook had to be scrapped over legal concerns. With GDPR fully instituted, the move may be allowed, but at that point each user has to express consent to any sharing.



„In the future, Facebook will no longer be allowed to force its users to agree to the practically unrestricted collection and assigning of non-Facebook data to their Facebook user accounts,” read Germany’s said Andreas Mundt, head of Bundeskartellamt, in a recent announcement. This organization is the first one of its kind in the world to openly oppose data sharing between the three messaging services. Their statement will no doubt echo many users’ thoughts, as the watchdog warns that with such a dominant market position as FB has, their integration of technologies may give them a very scary – and unfair – advantage over both competition and regular users. To wit: in Germany, Facebook “has a market share of more than 95% (of daily active users) and more than 80% (of monthly active users),” says Mundt.



All of this, of course, flies in the face of something that Zuckerberg famously said way back in 2009. “We talk about openness and transparency as the high-level ideal that we’re moving towards at Facebook. The way that we get there is by empowering people to share and connect. The combination of those two things leads the world to become more open,” he was quoted as saying by Wired in an interview.

Well, this particular #10yearchallenge does not seem to have panned out quite as expected. In 2019, Facebook is far from open and transparent, and now a similar fate may befall the other social networking mainstays. But what are the alternatives nowadays… #bringbackmyspace?


data leak – wyciek danych
overwhelming – przytłaczający
plethora – mnóstwo, multum
to devise sth – opracować coś, wymyślić
GDPR (General data protection regulation) – RODO (Ogólne rozporządzenie o ochronie danych osobowych)
to combat sth – walczyć z czymś, zwalczać coś
slew of sth – zalew czegoś, wylew
concerns – obawy
ordinary folk – zwyczajni ludzie
to shed light on sth – rzucić na coś światło
stalwart – tu: stały bywalec, stały gracz
coincidentally – przypadkowo
announcement – ogłoszenie
end-to-end – od nadawcy do odbiorcy, na całej długości połączenia (o rodzaju szyfrowania)
to encrypt sth – zaszyfrować coś
debate – dyskusja, debata
to figure sth out – wykombinować coś, wymyślić
statement – oświadczenie
sth is set in stone – coś jest ustalone na wieki
merge – połączenie, fuzja
to laud sth as sth – chwalić coś jako coś
loved ones – bliscy
no-brainer – rzecz oczywista, coś, nad czym nie trzeba się dwa razy zastanawiać (pot.)
buddy – kumpel
sb’s significant other – czyjś partner życiowy
to keep tabs on sb – pilnować kogoś
first and foremost – przede wszystkim
in layperson’s terms – mówiąc w prosty sposób, w sposób zrozumiały dla niewtajemniczonych
from the comfort of sth – będąc/siedząc wygodnie w czymś
feature – cecha, funkcja
so-called – tak zwany
encoding – kodowanie, szyfrowanie
party – strona (np. w kontrakcie)
respective – odpowiedni (dla danej osoby, rzeczy itp., w tej samej kolejności itp.)
to make X so that Y – sprawić, że X stanie się Y/zostanie zrobione Y
to hail sth as sth – okrzyczeć coś mianem czegoś
game-changer – coś, co całkowicie zmienia reguły gry, cos rewolucyjnego (pot.)
in terms of X – pod względem X
selling point – coś, co podnosi atrakcyjność produktu, unikalna cecha/funkcja
to loom – zbliżać się, nadciągać
back-end – zaplecze (techniczne, technologiczne, kod strony itp.)
to roll sth out – wypuścić coś
by default – domyślnie
individually – oddzielnie, pojedynczo
debacle – klapa, fiasko
if X had taught us anything, it’s that… – dzieki X nauczyliśmy się, że…
to rely on sth – polegać na czymś
to overhear sth – podsłuchać coś
to mine sth – tu: zbierać, gromadzić (o dużej ilości danych)
to farm sth – gromadzić i przetwarzać coś (o danych)
to alleviate sth – załagodzić coś, uspokoić
to assume – zakładać, bazować na założeniu (że…)
to process sth – przetwarzać coś
in the wake of sth – w wyniku czegoś
to advertise sth – reklamować coś
to take advantage of sth – skorzystać na czymś
ad (advertisement) – reklama
ominous – złowieszczy
nowadays – obecnie
head honcho – wielka szycha, dyrektor (pot.)
to take sth over – przejąć coś
co-founder – współzałożyciel
to speak out against sth – wypowiedzieć się krytycznie/przeciwko czemuś
mate – kolega, towarzysz
to step down – odejść, ustąpić (ze stanowiska)
down the line – później, po jakimś czasie
to abandon ship – opuścić pokład, uciec
headless – tu: bez przywódcy, bez steru
to change tack – zmienić kierunek (działania, rozwoju)
to begin in earnest – zacząć się na dobre
to improve – ulepszyć
metadata – dane meta, dane o danych
impersonal – bezosobowy
targeted – dopasowany (do danej osoby)
to siphon sth – przenieść coś, przepompować
murky – mroczny, ciemny
the grounds for sth – podstawa do czegoś
to be in the know – wiedzieć, co się kroi/święci/dzieje
to scrap sth – odwołać coś, zakończyć
to institute sth – ustanowić coś
to express consent – wyrazić zgodę
unrestricted – nieograniczony
to assign sth to sb – przekazać coś komuś, przypisać
user account – konto użytkownika
to oppose sth – sprzeciwić się czemuś
no doubt – bez wątpienia
to echo sth – powtarzać coś, odzwierciedlać
watchdog – organ nadzorujący
competition – rywale
to wit – a propos, skoro już o tym mowa
to fly in the face of sth – pozostawać w jawnej sprzeczności z czymś
transparency – przejrzystość
to empower sb – wzmocnić czyjąś pozycję, dać komuś moc sprawczą
to pan out – potoczyć się
X fate may befall sb – kogoś może spotkać X los
mainstay – stały gracz, ostoja (np. rynku)

by Prochor Aniszczuk

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