WhatsApp cross-chat with Messenger & Instagram will be optional...for now

By: News Desk      Published: 09:11 AM, 29 Sep, 2021
WhatsApp cross-chat with Messenger & Instagram will be optional...for now
Representational image.

Facebook’s grand plans of Messenger-Instagram-WhatsApp interoperability are still very much in motion, but a top executive has confirmed that WhatsApp users won’t be forced to join this connected messaging service ecosystem.

Mark Zuckerberg announced the company’s vision for interoperability back in 2019, reasoning that users should be able to reach their friends without worrying about which Facebook platform they use. It’s not just internet-driven messaging services, either. The SMS protocol is also a part of the company’s cross-platform communication masterplan.

The company has already executed a key portion of its cross-service messaging goal by allowing Messenger users to chat with their friends on Instagram, and vice versa — without having to install both apps. Even though WhatsApp is currently out of this interoperability hodge-podge, the company is already laying down the groundwork by extending its security features. A little more than one month ago, Facebook extended end-to-end encryption support to voice and video calls on Messenger. However, it remains to be seen whether Facebook can integrate WhatsApp into the interoperability scheme without stirring a privacy storm.

Facebook will be taking a cautious approach it seems, apparently taking lessons from the furor that followed in the wake of its privacy-policy change. Loredana Crisan, VP of Messaging Experience at Facebook, told The Next Web that the company continues to work on the interoperability between WhatsApp and its sibling services, Instagram DMs and Messenger. More importantly, Crisan mentioned that WhatsApp users will have a choice on whether they want to enable cross-platform messaging with their accounts.

WhatsApp making messaging interoperability tricky

Crisan didn’t go into detail about how the opt-in system for WhatsApp users will be implemented, but mentioned that conversations across platforms will be encrypted. However, there are a few functional hurdles that Facebook has to overcome before the privacy concerns can be tackled.

First, all personal chats are end-to-end encrypted by default on WhatsApp, but that facility is only available when users start a ‘secret chat’ on Messenger. In addition, the company will have to carefully select the user data that it collects during these cross-platform conversations, and will have to disclose it in detail in order to avoid another privacy row and regulatory scrutiny.

Facebook is already under intense scrutiny over practices that allegedly bypassed WhatsApp privacy claims, so convincing users won't be easy.

Another important aspect is the login method. WhatsApp relies solely on the mobile number for creating an account, while a Facebook account is enough to use Instagram and Messenger. However, opting in to the interoperability convenience means leaving the gates open for sharing phone numbers with Facebook and its advertising partners for ad-targeting and activity tracking.

It remains to be seen what robust privacy and transparency measures are implemented. More importantly, whether Facebook can sell WhatsApp users on the idea of a connected cross-platform messaging network without privacy risks.

WhatsApp previously threatened users with the loss of certain features if they didn't accept its controversial privacy-policy update, so the hopes are not too high for the majestic interoperability plans, at least given the current state of Facebook affairs.–screenrant.com