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New Messenger users are now required to sign up for Facebook

Facebook accounts are now required for people who are signing up for new Messenger accounts, possibly hinting at the social media company’s future plans for its messaging services.

In June 2015, Facebook opened the option for people to sign up for Messenger accounts without linking a Facebook profile, starting in certain countries that included the United States. The process could be completed using phone numbers, instead of Facebook accounts.

According to the Facebook Help Center, Facebook accounts are now needed to use Messenger. A tutorial is even provided for people who want to keep using Messenger but have deactivated their Facebook account.

The change was confirmed and explained by a Facebook spokesperson to VentureBeat in an e-mail.

“If you’re new to Messenger, you’ll notice that you need a Facebook account to chat with friends and close connections,” the spokesperson wrote. “We found that the vast majority of people who use Messenger already log in through Facebook and we want to simplify the process.”

People who are already using Messenger without a Facebook account will be able to continue using the service without having to do anything, according to the spokesperson. However, there have been reports of users failing to get logged in to their Messenger accounts without a linked Facebook profile.

VentureBeat suggested that the sudden change is somehow connected to Facebook’s plan to unify the messaging services of Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram users, which the New York Times reported in January 2019.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg also reportedly ordered the apps to adopt end-to-end encryption, following WhatsApp’s lead. Encryption, which will protect messages between two people from being intercepted and read by others.

Unfortunately, Facebook is almost never far from controversy. Earlier this month, the full names, phone numbers, and Facebook IDs of more than 267 million of the social network’s users were exposed to an online database, potentially exposing them to spam and phishing campaigns. Security researcher Bob Diachenko, who discovered the database, told Comparitech that the leaked data was most likely due to illegal web scraping or a hole in Facebook’s API.

Earlier this week, fact-checking website Snopes claimed that Facebook is “not committed” in the fight to prevent fake news from propagating on the social network.

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