Facebook confirmed this year it’s working to add an extra layer of security to its messaging services as part of a plan to make it possible for WhatsApp,and Instagram users to send messages to one another without switching apps. But that might be harder than it sounds, WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton signaled Friday.
Like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Instagram messages would be end-to-end encrypted, meaning messages couldn’t be viewed by anyone outside the sender and recipient. The three apps would still be separate, but they’d be brought together under a single messaging platform or protocol. That, however, might be harder for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his team to pull off than it appears.
“Mark has has set himself up with a very tall order and I think it’s going to be years in the making,” said Acton, executive chairman of the Signal Foundation, at the Wired25 conference in San Francisco. “The proof is really going to be in the pudding.”
In January,reported that Facebook set a goal of finishing the work by the end of this year or early 2020. A Facebook spokeswoman didn’t have an update about the project.
Facebook’s plan to end-to-end encrypt Instagram andhas raised concerns that it would make it harder for law enforcement to solve child exploitation crimes. Last month, government officials from the UK, US and Australia asked Facebook to pause these efforts.
Internally, Facebook executives have reportedly butted heads with Zuckerberg about plans to merge the messaging services. Two of those executives, Facebook Chief Product Officerand Chris Daniels, who heads Facebook-owned messaging app WhatsApp, announced they were leaving Facebook in March.
Acton, pointing out that foreign entities are interfering in elections, pushed for more encryption, not less. While bad actors will also find ways to abuse technology, he said good actors, like lawyers, journalists, doctors, activists and the press, need stronger protections.
“We need more security. We don’t need less,” Acton said.
Acton, whose tweet “It is time. #deletefacebook” went viral last year, also said it’s people’s “personal choice” if they want to stop using the social network.
“If you want to be on Facebook and you want to have ads pressed in front of you… go to town. I mean that’s your choice,” he said.
He added that tech companies should explore other business models outside of advertising, which Facebook makes most of its money from, because it doesn’t necessarily make the product better.
“There should be more business model innovation in the internet in general,” Acton said.
Originally published Nov. 8, 12:55 p.m. PT.
Update, 1:33 p.m. PT: Adds response from Facebook.