Voice calls from apps like Facebook Messenger and Facebook-owned WhatsApp are possible thanks to voice over IP (VoIP) technology and at present runs in the background on devices to allow for quicker connections. Apple is moving to restrict that background process because it also allows the apps to collect user data without reason or permission.
It’s a customer friendly privacy focussed move in line with the upcoming Sign in with Apple feature that can log you into services using your Apple ID and gives you the option to use an auto-generated email address instead of disclosing your own if the field is required.
It suggests that the move will force Facebook in particular to redesign how its voice calling apps work and also how WhatsApp’s encryption works, as it used the background process loophole to function. Given how integral encryption is to WhatsApp’s appeal, it is important that Facebook handles it correctly.
Many people may not realise that Facebook Messenger does not encrypt its text messages by default, to the despair of many in the tech industry given its wide usage.
A Facebook spokesperson when asked for comment said, “To be clear—we are using the PushKit VoIP API to deliver a world-class, private messaging experience, not for the purpose of collecting data."
The fact that Messenger and WhatsApp are reportedly the most affected apps in the change is telling of Facebook’s monopoly on the VoIP and messaging market. With competitors few and far between, the move could be seen as Apple attempting to restrict Facebook’s data mining given that so many people use its voice calling services via iPhones and iPads.