The lines between Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp are already blurred, but the latest privacy update on WhatsApp shows that full integration might be just around the corner.
Facebook’s eponymous platform has been inching closer and closer to bringing a more comprehensive integration between its two little brothers, Instagram and WhatsApp. The move has drawn a barrage of criticism and alarm from industry regulators over the past year, with more and more claiming Facebook’s business practices breach antitrust laws.
Perhaps the most important integration has already happened, albeit on a smaller scale. Facebook and Instagram have used the same ad management system for a few years now, allowing advertisers to serve targeted ads on both platforms simultaneously. That’s an element that has allowed brands to balance audiences and budget for optimization, and it’s been effective. Facebook brought in over $17 billion in Q1 revenue of 2020 alone, even with the tail end of that earnings report coming at the start of the pandemic.
The updated terms of service on the WhatsApp platform removes the option for users to opt-out of sharing personal data with Facebook, a decision that was in place in the most recent update earlier this summer. The move is another step closer to integrating all of the messaging services to work seamlessly, allowing users to communicate across platforms without having to download all three applications separately.
For users, it may be a convenient fix to condense a number of on-going conversations down to one channel. It also lays the groundwork to support Facebook’s years-long push to support eCommerce across its platforms and allow users to pay for goods and services within its family of applications. But that ease of use and functionality comes at a price; by using any one of the Facebook apps, you’ll be sharing information with all of them, and activity on any one platform can be used to serve you ads on another.
There may be an element of aggressive self-defense in the move, too. Some experts warn that Facebook’s mad dash to integrate its products is designed to make those applications too interconnected to be broken up, which is what many lawmakers are advocating for on Capitol Hill. Facebook has accelerated its integration efforts over the past two years, a sign that it knows the winds of change might be turning cold in the next twelve months or so.
The changes for WhatsApp users will take place later this month, but just how much it will affect app downloads and daily users remains to be seen. There are currently around 68 million WhatsApp users in the US.
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