Last Friday, Facebook announced the Purchase of $ 400 million from Giphy. The question immediately arose: why does Facebook want a search and publish service for GIFs?
The truth is that several experts and analysts make it clear: Facebook dislikes Giphy because of GIFs, but because with this service they take control of an element that is already an integral part of many social networks like Twitter or messaging apps competing with WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. Data collection reopens the debate on Facebook and privacy.
A worrying acquisition
Facebook’s purchase of Giphy came as a surprise, and unlike other previous deals, Facebook’s strategy here is not to “get rid of a competitor”, but take control of a cross-service that many social networks and messaging apps use as a natural part of these communication channels.
1/5 Looks like the deal with Giphy is strategically ideal for FB and likely gave Giphy the lifeline he needed.
FB Gets Valuable Information – Giphy is built into many advanced applications and the SDK requires disclosure of user’s device IDs.
This? Did you think they bought it for the gifs?
– V ivek 🐻 (@VivekxK) 15 mai 2020
Mike Isaac of the New York Times summed up this strategic value very clearly: Giphy is integrated into many popular services, he added, and the SDK requires the user to communicate the identifier of his device.
This acquisition is similar to the Onavo data analysis service, with which they detected that WhatsApp messaging rates were threatening their own messaging service years ago.
This service allowed them to spot market trends and react quickly, and the Zuckerberg company ended up buying it in October 2013 for $ 200 million. Five months later they bought WhatsApp for 19,000 million and The rest, as they say, is history.
As in this other case, Giphy provides another important resource for Facebook, not only for data collection, but to detect trends in all kinds of markets and be able to respond to each of them.
Giphy as a Trojan horse to infiltrate the competition
The announcement of the acquisition raised suspicion among those who were already concerned about data collection on Facebook. As reported in OneZero, this acquisition will allow the company “to have access to vast amounts of data on how GIFs are used in thousands of applications.”
This service has 300 million active users, and what those users don’t realize is that every time they search for a GIF or send it, a “tag” is generated that allows this business to follow. how and where this GIF is shared, along with the associated mood to this message.
Facebook’s decision is not entirely new: Google already bought its competitor, Tenor, in 2018, and the platform this is part of your android keyboard, Gboard.
The impact for the rest of the services is clear: Facebook gets to know the behavior of users in apps it does not control, and this data collection with aspects like mood could further profile your advertising platform.
So far, few of these platforms have indicated if they will make any changes after this purchase, but the integration of Giphy into messaging platforms poses a unique situation for companies like Apple, which integrates it into iMessage or Twitter, where this service is widely used.
Yes, Facebook tells me they would know which gifs are used on which apps and how often (anonymous mass data, not personally identifiable)
– Sarah Frier (@sarahfrier) May 15, 2020
Sarah Frier, Bloomberg reporter, said on Facebook know for example which GIFs are used in WhatsApp and how often, although the company has indicated – as usual – that the data is anonymous and not individually identifiable.
Giphy will continue to operate independently and all companies that have used it or wish to use the service will continue to have access to its GIF catalog and API, but as noted in Wired this gives Facebook “a new window” to observe its competitors.
The collection of “blocks” is possible: this is how they do it in Signal
Cyber security experts such as Moxie Marlinspike – creator of the protocol and the encrypted messaging app Signal – wanted to clarify this point. at least in your case there are several measures to protect privacy users.
Now that Giphy has been acquired by FB, many have asked if we should be worried about Giphy finding Signal.
Signal already uses a privacy approach to prevent gif search providers from receiving user data: https: //t.co/PhfdHb9aJ0
– Moxie Marlinspike (@moxie) 15 mai 2020
So, says this developer, the idea is to prevent those who provide GIF search algorithms cannot collect data users.
To do it use TLS connections which prevents signal servers from “seeing” the plain text of what is being transmitted or received, and Giphy also cannot know who requested a certain GIF with a certain search term.
Some companies have already commented on the suspicion this could generate in the future use of their services. Slack, for example, said in The Verge that Giphy “does not receive any data on users or businesses that use Giphy in their integration with Slack,” and something similar said in Telegram, which spokespersons assured that this data is not shared and that they prepare the transition which allows to do without the service.
It will be interesting to see how services like Twitter, iMessage, Reddit, Slack or TikTok react, services and massive social networks with hundreds of millions of users who are now exposed to bring this trojan home that Facebook is now raising with this operation.