Tech monopoly Facebook has decided to make its ownership of Instagram and WhatsApp a little more apparent. “We want to be clearer about the products and services that are part of Facebook,” spokesperson Bertie Thomson explained. No doubt this will come as a small shock to a good chunk of those Instagram and WhatsApp users, many of whom are still under the impression that the two apps are separate, independent entities. (Instagram ceased to be so in 2012; WhatsApp in 2014.)
The confusion is understandable. As Wired points out, “The companies had their own CEOs, their own apps and websites, their own office buildings and email addresses. Facebook even allowed WhatsApp employees to have nicer desks and fancier bathrooms.”
No doubt this arrangement was calculated in part to sow confusion among users, given how much (well-earned) flak Facebook has taken over the past few years, mostly over privacy and security concerns, but now also about censorship and political partisanship concerns. All of which are valid. Facebook is a titanic trust and deserves every bit of scrutiny it receives.
Recently, former NSA analyst-cum-whistleblower Edward Snowden accused Facebook and its subsidiaries of spying on its users, and pledged to demonstrate it for laypeople.
“In the weeks ahead, I aim to explain how each of these sites spies on you, and methods to limit how much they know about you. If you use them, keep an eye out,” he wrote on Twitter. If you don’t already follow him, I would suggest you do so now.
Returning to the original point of this blog, Wired reports that Instagram now says “Instagram from Facebook” at the bottom of the screen.
The tech website goes on to ascribe a less-than-noble motive to Facebook’s decision:
“What makes the move seem ill-considered is that just last week Facebook confirmed that both the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission are investigating the company for possible antitrust violations. Among the items the agencies are considering: Whether Facebook’s purchases of WhatsApp and Instagram were anti-competitive, because they snuffed out potential rivals. It’s hard to avoid wondering if Facebook’s rebranding exercise isn’t some ham-handed effort at convincing government lawyers that three apps are already fused.”
As to whether or not the acquisitions were “anti-competitive,” of course they were. It’s high time we bust this trust.