WhatsApp and Instagram are to be integrated with Facebook Messenger, it has been revealed. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg apparently wants to combine the services under a single underlying messaging platform or protocol.
The idea is to allow users to communicate across the three services more easily, with the project set to complete by the end of this year or early next, according to The New York Times.
According to reports, the new unified backend will support the end-to-end encryption needed to stop messages being viewed by third parties. In theory, this means all three platforms should be more secure, but in reality, there are doubts.
For this reason, the news has not been well received by many users. People are already leaving Facebook in droves and with good reason: The social networking giant has been hacked and suffered data leaks several times over the last year. As part of this, the messaging app was possibly affected seeing users’ private conversations exposed to hackers.
This, of course, is in addition to the ongoing Cambridge Analytica scandal which saw Facebook abusing its user data with results that could have influenced elections.
The exact logistics of what is going to happen once the three services are combined are not yet clear. But you can bet your life that data will be at the heart of this integration. There are even suggestions that if pressured, Facebook could build a handy back door allowing law enforcement to spy on WhatApp users when needed.
WhatsApp has so far largely been kept separate to Facebook. But following this major news, many of you will have decided it’s time to cast aside the popular messaging service. So what can you use instead? There are a few choices of secure messaging apps that use end-to-end encryption to ensure your private messages remain that way.
Free messaging app Viber, which has over 900 million registered users, is made by a Luxembourg based company. It’s now rolled out end-to-end encryption, enabling it to compete with the likes of WhatsApp, security-wise. The app also offers secure, high-quality calls making it a good alternative when calling overseas – or simply to avoid listening ears.
Beloved of security industry people worldwide, encryption is at the heart of secure messaging app Signal. Adding to its credentials, Signal’s encryption engine is open source, which can aid security because a huge number of people are constantly testing and fixing the code. The app is free, simple and easy to use and available on multiple platforms.
Telegram, which has more than 180 million active users, is considered one of the most secure messaging platforms. Also offering end-to-end encryption, the free app offers a special privacy feature called “Secret Chats”. When using this feature to send sensitive messages, photos, videos and other files on your app, they can be deleted when the recipient opens them on the other side. These chats are not part of the Telegram cloud and are instead stored on the device. If you’re using Telegram, just watch out for the Bots feature, which has suffered a recent security flaw.
Available on both Android and iOS, another app that boasts a secure end-to-end encryption protocol is Wickr. Like Signal, the app was made open source in August 2017, so the community is able to inspect it and hopefully fix any bugs. Adding to its credentials, Wickr even offers a “bug bounty” to any hackers able to find a vulnerability on the platform.
Which service should you use?
There are a number of other options, including iMessage on the iPhone – Apple’s Wi-Fi enabled messaging service. But in the end, it’s down to personal preference: Wickr, for example, is more suited to enterprise users. Those who want to communicate with friends are better off using a consumer-friendly platform that others can also join. Therefore, if you have to choose one – and need to recommend it to others – it should probably be Signal or Telegram. The choice, as they say, is yours.