U.S. may block Facebook from integrating WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger
Earlier this year, reports revealed that Facebook’s co-founder Mark Zuckerberg planned to unify the infrastructure of all three of Facebook’s messaging services — WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger. The idea was to operate all three services as standalone apps but on the same underlying messaging infrastructure. Naturally, this raised privacy concerns among many of the users, so Facebook outlined a new “Privacy-Focused Vision” for the three apps. This new privacy-focused vision focused on a few key principles, including user privacy, better encryption, interoperability, secure data storage, and reducing permanence. However, Facebook’s history of scandals and mishandling of user data might make it difficult for the company to undertake this unification process.
According to a recent report from The Wall Street Journal, U.S. Federal officials are currently considering seeking preliminary action against Facebook Inc. over antitrust concerns regarding how its products interact. People familiar with the matter have revealed that if the injunction materializes, the Federal Trade Commission will focus on the company’s policies regarding how it integrates its apps and allows them to work with potential rivals. The FTC action could seek to prevent Facebook from implementing these policies on grounds that they are anticompetitive.
An FTC injunction could further bar Facebook from enforcing its unification policies which the regulators might look to unwind as part of a future breakup of the company. In order to seek an injunction, the FTC would require a five-member majority and the commission would need to file a suit in a federal court to obtain the injunction. As of now, both the FTC and Facebook have declined to comment on the matter.
One of the people familiar with the matter has also revealed that Facebook has been worried for months that the FTC would seek an injunction against its “interoperability” rules. This refers to the manner in which the company’s digital platforms interact. The main concern here is that Facebook’s interoperability policies prevent other similar services from competing with the social-media giant. Facebook has rejected this recurring complaint about its policies.
Officials are also concerned that Facebook’s plans to further integrate its platforms — WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger — could make it harder for the federal agency to eventually split up the company in an antitrust case. Currently, it isn’t clear whether the FTC would move forward with an antitrust lawsuit against Facebook or seek an injunction over its interoperability policies. In either case, the agency’s next step towards the process could occur as soon as next month, according to one person familiar with the matter. It’s also possible that the agency might attempt to block some of the company’s interoperability policies that have previously disadvantaged social-media rivals in the past.
Source: The Wall Street Journal