Wednesday 30 January 2019 8:01 am

DEBATE: Now that Facebook is integrating WhatsApp and Instagram, should we be worried about privacy?

Now that Facebook is integrating WhatsApp and Instagram, should we be worried about privacy?

Ruth Manielevitch, vice president of global business development at Taptica, says YES.

Facebook has said that there will be end-to-end encryption across the board as part of this integration, but this will be difficult to implement.

The level of personal information required across these apps differs; for example, on WhatsApp we share our phone numbers, but on Instagram and Facebook we do not. This has implications for data sharing and privacy – I can’t imagine that people will be happy if private WhatsApp messages were used as data to serve targeted adverts across Facebook, for example.

The integration is a bold move, especially given how trust in Facebook has been damaged lately due to privacy breaches. However, this isn’t to say that it can’t be done effectively.

In order to gain people’s trust, Facebook must prove that the platforms are indeed all encrypted, and be completely transparent regarding data collection and privacy terms. Users must also have options to access their personal data and the right to opt out of data collection.

If not, yes, we should be worried

Jon Brombley, managing director at creative consultancy Albion, says NO.

The critical question is whether WhatsApp’s automatic end-to-end encryption will be extended to the other platforms.

That would be a real benefit to consumers, who would be given more control over their personal conversations, and would prevent Facebook from mining their users’ messages for data. Integrating these services could therefore massively improve the user experience.

As we’ve seen with Apple’s stance – and in the outrage over the Facetime bug which allowed users to listen in to other people’s conversations – privacy is becoming a key point of difference between social media services. People are becoming more wise to the value of the data that they personally generate.

Potentially, Facebook is more interested in retaining users than in mining their in-message information. It may then be able to target its millions of users with ads in ways that do not invade their personal privacy quite as much, but that are still relevant and useful for the end consumer.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.