As Meta continues to advance its full message integration plan – despite various government and child safety groups advising against the initiative – the company has now offered a level of delay in its progress, which could open the door to more discussions about the project’s potential negative impacts.
Back in 2019, Facebook announced it plan to combine Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp messaging features, which would then provide users with a universal inbox, with all your messages from every app available on any platform. This would simplify cross-linking, while opening the door to more opportunities for brands to connect with customers in the messaging tool of their choice.
But child safety experts raised the alarm and a few months after the first announcement of Facebook, representatives of the governments of the UK, US and Australia sent an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg asking the company to abandon its integration plan, which would also, if necessary , include extending end-to-end encryption to all Facebook – now Meta – messaging options.
Since WhatsApp messages are encrypted by default, the only way to integrate other platforms is to raise them to the same level of security. Which, on one level, is positive, because it provides greater privacy in the exchange of messages, but on the other hand, it can additionally protect criminal activities, because no one, not even Meta herself, is able to follow encrypted discussions. This essentially means that, as a side effect, there would be a massive expansion of the company’s encrypted communication network.
As stated, Meta continued to make steady progress in this initiative despite opposition, but last weekend, in an article for The Telegraph in the UK, Meta Global Security Chief Antigone Davis said the company was now slowing its progress somewhat, in order to ensure that ‘we understood that well ‘.
As Davis explained:
“At Meta, we know that people expect us to use the most secure technology available, which is why all the personal messages you send on WhatsApp are already encrypted from end to end and why we are working to make it a default worldwide. our other applications. As we do so, there is an ongoing debate about how technology companies can continue to fight abuse and support the vital work of law enforcement if we cannot access your messages. We believe that people should not have to choose between privacy and security, which is why we incorporate strong security measures into our plans and work with privacy and security experts, civil society and governments to make sure we do it right. ”
Davis says Meta uses a ‘triple approach’ to address these issues and maximize privacy. This strategy includes using proactive detection technology to look for suspicious activity patterns in messages, providing more controls for users to filter DM requests, and encouraging users to report activities.
Davis says that by applying these measures, Meta will be able to fulfill the demands of the police, without compromising on the issue of user privacy.
“As we introduce end-to-end encryption, we will use a combination of unencrypted data in our applications, account information and user reports to protect them in a privacy-protected manner, while aiding public security efforts. This kind of work already allows us to submit vital reports from the WhatsApp to the authorities for the safety of children. “
But this will require more development, which will slow progress. Meta originally said he planned for the full integration process to be established by 2022, but now Davis has shifted that time frame.
“We are looking for time to correct this and do not plan to complete the global introduction of end-to-end encryption by default in all our messaging services by sometime in 2023. As a company that connects billions of people around the world and has built industry-leading technology, we are committed to protecting people’s private communication and protecting people online. ”
Which may not be a significant extension, but it could still give authorities more time to declare their case to Met and request a revision of the plan, which will eventually see that all messages in any of its applications are standardly selected for encryption.
But even so, Meta seems pretty ready for her message-merging strategy. Part of the additional motivation for this could be that by merging the company’s background messaging part, which could then allow Mattie to claim that its platform, as a whole, cannot be broken.
The target is under various antitrust investigations, several of which recommend that its previous acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp be reviewed and potentially withdrawn if it is determined that they were initiated due to non-competitive practices. If any of these decisions don’t go according to Meta, it could mean he’ll have to sell out Instagram and / or WhatsApp – but perhaps, if its background messaging end is integrated, Meta could argue that its components may ‘actually cannot be shared because they are now all part of one broader platform.
Which could be another reason why Meta wants to move forward so much, despite opposition to the plan – but perhaps, with an additional 12 months added to the process, there may be more debate, which could stop the change.
Again, the strongest counter-argument here is from child safety groups, who say broader message encryption will provide greater protection for criminal groups.
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, for example, argues that any step towards further restricting access to messaging platforms by law enforcement will increase the potential for use of these platforms among groups of perpetrators.
According to per NSPCC Executive Director Peter Wanless:
“Private messages are at the forefront of child sexual abuse, but the current debate over end-to-end encryption risks leaving children unprotected where there is the greatest harm.”
This is the main point of discussion, but also the privacy and choice of the individual, and the question itself emphasizes the balance and nuance in such a discussion, where, from an optimistic perspective, this is a good move, but bad actors will be able to manipulate them for their own purposes.
As is the case in almost every social media debate – most systems and processes, in general, have a positive impact on interaction and engagement, but a minority of criminals and groups seeking to manipulate the system in general can also benefit from the same updates.
The latter can be far more harmful, but the former serves more people. Therefore, there are no easy answers in such considerations.
In essence, the message encryption debate is a microcosm of many other algorithmic and systematic arguments to the process – whether you are going for the change that will benefit most people the most, or seek to limit it, even if it reduces overall user satisfaction and thus retention and performance?
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