How to Stop Facebook’s Dangerous App Integration Ploy

From NYTs

In response to calls that Facebook be forced to divest itself of WhatsApp and Instagram, Mark Zuckerberg has instead made a strategic power grab: He intends to put Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger onto a unified technical infrastructure. The integrated apps are to be encrypted to protect users from hackers. But who’s going to protect users from Facebook?

Ideally, that would be the Federal Trade Commission, the agency charged with enforcing the antitrust laws and protecting consumers from unfair business practices. But the F.T.C. has looked the other way for far too long, failing to enforce its own 2011 consent decree under which Facebook was ordered to stop deceiving users about its privacy claims. The F.T.C. has also allowed Facebook to gobble up any company that could possibly compete against it, including Instagram and WhatsApp.

Not that blocking these acquisitions would have been easy for the agency under the current state of antitrust law. Courts require antitrust enforcers to prove that a merger will raise prices or reduce production of a particular product or service. But proving that prices will increase is nearly impossible in a digital world where consumers pay not with money but with their personal data and by viewing ads.

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7 Responses to How to Stop Facebook’s Dangerous App Integration Ploy

  1. Ria Bagga February 8, 2019 at 6:11 pm #

    I absolutely detest Facebook. The idea to merge infrastructure for Whatsapp, Messenger, and Instagram only make it even more dangerous to own these apps. Facebook is a security risk for all users, yet almost like a parasite you can’t get rid of. I would have personally deleted my Facebook account years ago if it weren’t for the websites or apps that need my Facebook login. I don’t feel as unsafe on Facebook because of the lack of data on my account. I do have pictures on it and data like my phone number stored on my account, but nothing that could majorly affect my life. For most other users, Facebook could easily lead to identity theft, unauthorized purchases, and access to endless other websites or apps that have Facebook login. The issue is only growing with the idea to merge the infrastructure for such popular apps lead to more data breaches and unhappy users. Facebook really needs to work on cybersecurity before jumping into monopolizing business decisions. Let alone with the new problems Zuckerberg is creating for himself, there are easily many existing problems on these apps and sites that need to be fixed before jumping into the next big thing.

  2. Alex Dornbierer February 8, 2019 at 9:03 pm #

    Facebook was my first social media. I was a 6th grader who had just gotten an iPod Touch and wanted to be like my older sister and parents. That grew into most of the social media platforms that we have today. I knew that Facebook owned Instagram and WhatsApp, but after reading the article and hearing the news that they would like to integrate all apps into one unified technical infrastructure I can only see bad outcomes in the future. They want to integrate them to protect the from hackers but I don’t believe that that would be the problem. In an article from VPNguru, the author stated that Facebook was selling your personal data, that it collected through the many apps and websites that uses Facebook for login status, to the highest bidder. That is an identity just waiting to be stolen. If this is true than hackers aren’t what we should be worried about. If Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger, and Facebook are all under the same infrastructure than nothing of ours online is safe. When I was being recruited for football and baseball in high school many scouts told me to watch what I retweet or post on social media because coaches and future employers would be looking into my social media before making a final choice on me. A player on my high school baseball was asked to leave the team mid-season because of something he posted on his Twitter. If Facebook is/was selling your info to the highest bidder than worrying what you retweeted wouldn’t be the most thing that could happen to you. And seeing that the F.T.C (Federal Trade Commission) looked the other way in 2011, when face book failed to stop deceiving users about the privacy claims. If they overlooked that what else could the F.T.C have possible overlooked. The integration of Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger, and Facebook would only increase the chances of another scandal or Facebook using illegal was to make a quick buck. I personally don’t use my Facebook that often. Only for the class of 2022 group chat, my jobs group chat, and for hearing news about my school sporting teams back in high school. But for others, they post everything they do under the sun on Facebook. Those are the people who are the most at risk of anyone if the integration goes through.

  3. Luke C February 8, 2019 at 9:34 pm #

    The more we look at what Facebook is doing (as well as how they are operating in the tech-market) we see that they are obviously the ‘majority’ of social platforms. Taking a step back, it’s hard to really differentiate who their actual competition is. Maybe Twitter, Snapchat, or LinkedIn for example, but they are still lacking in overall user interaction on a day-to-day basis. This is what makes this integration issue so scary; the more interaction and dependability people have with Facebook, the more power they have in creating a monopoly in the social media world. This can even be stemmed back to 2004 when Google tried acquiring FB. Currently, FB’s user rate is largely more than Google’s user rate, making FB a behemoth on the internet. Both companies depend heavily on running ads, and if more people are seeing FB’s ads, that’s more money for FB to keep acquiring smaller companies (ex: Instagram and WhatsApp). FB created a snowball effect resulting in them ‘owning’ the majority of social platforms users…also known as a monopoly in my book.

    As for the F.T.C. who are trying to fight them; they’re definitely going to have trouble splitting up Facebook from its own smaller companies. Integration between these apps might sound nice in Zuckerberg’s mind, but I think it’s killing the market for new social medias. Another example of Facebook’s power over smaller companies is Vine. The company gained a lot of traction very quickly, but inevitably was killed due to updates to Instagram. Zuckerberg saw a threat, reacted by changing one of the company’s “smaller” platforms to play off Vine’s success, and cut off Vine’s access to “find friends through Facebook.” Vine, owned by Twitter, later shut down in 2016, and most people (including myself) believe FB was a key reason in the closing.

    The more we look into what the Facebook Company are doing, the more we see them cutting corners and finding loopholes in legalities regarding how they are allowed to operate in the market. This article points out nicely how “the F.T.C. has looked the other way for far too long…” and by doing this, they allowed FB to become the powerhouse it is today. I’m not saying it’s completely Facebook’s fault for being successful, but when we start talking about their lack of care concerning user security, match with their love of holding user data, it gets a bit more complicated. Yes, it’s perfectly fine to maintain a successful company and take down some competitors while doing it, but when you are only competing with yourself, I believe that is where you’ll slip up. You get lazy and aren’t open to new ideas competitors may bring to the table. Vine had a solid idea behind it, and if it weren’t for them, I think Instagram would look very different from the way it looks today. Syncing data between apps is always interesting, and the programmer inside of me loves the accessibility and challenge of it…but I don’t think it’s worth killing off an entire market-base just so I don’t have to entire three different passwords for Facebook-owned apps. Not only that, but most of their data gathering is ad based, and at this point I’m sure most people aren’t too worried if they get an ad not related to the videos they’ve been viewing.

  4. Shegufta Tasneem February 14, 2019 at 12:10 pm #

    It is unfortunate how social media sites and other social media apps forget their original intention of creating them for the public. The social media sites and the digital platforms were supposed to be a platform for the people who do not get an opportunity for freedom of speech in real life. It was supposed to be a safe place where people from all walks of life could share their opinions and beliefs with the people of the world and find similar people through their contents. But these apps that were once considered as technological milestones like Facebook, Twitter, and Google have now become an unfaithful and untrustworthy place for people everywhere. It has shifted its business model to displaying digital advertisements to the customers by monitoring and tracking their every move. Through this violation of privacy, they have proved themselves to be untrustworthy. Although Facebook has repeatedly faced allegations and obstructions on its way to doing this, they still continue to invade our privacy to fulfill their own profit motives. As the article says, “without meaningful competition, Facebook has little incentive to protect users by making changes, that could reduce profit.” When enough people stop using their app, Facebook would try to step their game up by taking some initiatives to reduce their advertisement business and focus on creating social media contents more interesting. Instagram and WhatsApp have already become more popular social media apps than Facebook because of its privacy invasion practices. I, personally, do not like using facebook because it repeatedly shows me advertisements about information that they were not supposed to know I am interested in. even outside of the app or the website, they are able to monitor what other websites I visit and what products I look at when I go for online shopping. This information was not supposed to be in their reach and yet, they are able to track my every move to gather as much information as they can about my online as well as offline profile. This violation of privacy policies and misrepresentation of changing policies are what is making Facebook less popular to this and the future generations.

  5. Luke Tyler February 15, 2019 at 8:06 pm #

    It seems that with every attempt the government tries to make in restricting Facebook, Zuckerberg and his team are twelve steps ahead of them. For the past few years, Facebook has silently been acquiring companies like Instagram, WhatsApp and building their own independent Facebook messenger. With each new acquisition Facebook upgrades their data warehouses with user information and sells information as a way to feed their source of income. That income is what makes it hard for the government when they try and classify it as a monopoly. For Facebook it’s hard to put them in the same scope as typical monopoly since they aren’t price discriminating consumers directly. Facebook doesn’t directly make money from their users rather it’s from third parties like Cambridge Analytica. The main issue of why Facebook is under fire is for deceiving users into thinking private information was safe, but I think it’s the FTC attempt hold onto a claim to try and stop Facebook from completing these mergers. With Net Neutrality repealed, it is easier for bigger companies to prosper through partnerships with ISPs. With the underlying pressure of the online world, I can understand the concern for the FTC and why they want to heavily regulate the sale of user data because Facebook plays a huge role in the new age of online media. A company similar to the tech giant Facebook is Amazon. In the past couple of years Amazon’s growth has skyrocketed and with more acquisitions, the company is dominant in the ecommerce market. The government feared possible talks of Amazon buying out Capital One in 2018 with worries that the overall system of Amazon would be too vertically integrated. With Amazon in control of the payments, fulfillment and now shipping the company would no longer need to deal with any intermediaries. While a deal like that is concerning, the FTC is already on the lookout for such a deal and would block Amazon from reaching more power. The FTC is attempting to act accordingly with Facebook in stopping their integration of the acquired apps. After all, with Facebook’s market share of 65%, the corporation and Zuckerberg could see some issues coming from regulation in the foreseeable future. It is just a matter of time until the FTC will be able to slow Facebook down.

  6. Demetri Allen March 1, 2019 at 7:50 pm #

    Sally Hubbard brings up a very interesting point in this article. She talks about how Facebook plans to merge Instagram, Whatsapp, and Facebook Messenger under the same infrastructure. The each would remain separate apps but all share information behind the scenes. The FTC trying to come to the rescue and stop the merger draws and interesting line in the sand. On one hand many people are against government intervention. Many believe the government should stay out of the people’s affairs whether it be public or private. However, in this case I believe it is justified. If Facebook makes the integration, then their monopoly power as a company grows much bigger. Instagram, Whatsapp, and Facebook Messenger are among some of the most used communication applications on the internet. Millions of people use each of those three apps every day. With Facebook webbing them together they would generate an even bigger hold on their consumers. Facebook would then have access to a giant pool of information across multiple platforms and I for one am not someone that likes my personal information being in the hands of a company. God forbid they sell that information to another company for who knows what reason. This is a scenario where government intervention is a good thing. The FTC using their authority through Anti-Trust laws they could stop Facebook from completing the merger and essentially saving millions of users from their information being put into a collective bank. Facebooks reason in general for the merger is beat out competition and instill its monopolistic power which is exactly the FTC’s job to stop. The government has a lot of power and it is a never-ending question as to when it should be used. Many argue as little as possible but to me there are certain circumstances that require intervention of the government.

  7. Joseph Oates March 1, 2019 at 9:30 pm #

    Sally Hubbard brings up a very interesting situation in her article, How to Stop Facebook’s Dangerous App Integration Ploy. She brings up how Facebook is turning into a monopoly of social media platforms and is dominating the social media world. Whenever a new form of social media comes up Facebook ends up buying them out, so Facebook can keep them as the only sole main social media platform. Twitter now is the only other social media platform that is out and is the only form of alternative to Facebook as another platform. Having the F.T.C. break up Facebook to allow for other platforms to give options of not having to use Facebook to boost their companies or to be connected to friends and family. Currently however Facebook is dealing with a situation form a business that uses their platform to help promote them to the world.
    Being the only major social media platform where you can sell merchandise and connect to others freely without character restrictions will cause some groups that Facebook does not agree with to join them. That disagreement might come from views like social structure or political party. One of those groups is called Louder with Crowder. Crowder is someone that is a conservative outlet that will talk about different topics from the conservative view. Recently Crowder has been talking about how he is not getting the same response to his post on Facebook as on Youtube or Twitter, and today he posted a video that he said thanks to a whistleblower at Facebook he now knows why. Facebook has slowed and hidden his content, as well as other outlets from getting to pages that follow him. Blocking him from getting his business from getting his content to others and stopping his freedom of speech protected by the first amendment. Facebook being this giant business in the social media platform that they are is going to be in legal problems now that people are seeing this. They will start to go after them for stopping their first amendment right.
    As well as being in legal trouble for this in the past with Crowder as he talks about having them not post his advertisements after paying for them. Having to sue the mega company, only to have the situation taken care of out of court with mediation. They also will have to now deal with the whistleblower that was fired from her job because of telling others about this. Facebook is going to be in trouble again with the government as they were last year thanks to these antics. Being this monopoly that they are and ignoring laws by using the legal strategy of noncompliance. They will have to start to deal with the government coming down and looking to breaking up the monster that they have allowed to grow. Just as Sally has said in her article, breaking up Facebook into smaller companies would give everyone other areas to compete their business and stop Facebook from know that they are the only place that people can go. Having competitors in the same field would make Facebook play by the rules and not allow them to pick and choose what laws they wish to follow.

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