Facebook has begun testing Messenger's default end-to-end encryption

Facebook has begun testing Messenger’s default end-to-end encryption

Facebook has provided an update on its long-awaited intentions to enable end-to-end encryption (E2EE) by default in its Messenger chat platform, stating that testing for conversations “between select individuals” has started this week.

Facebook Messenger users may presently enable E2EE on a per-chat basis, although such opt-in systems are typically supported by a security-conscious minority. Making end-to-end encryption the default will be a significant move, adding a significant layer of protection to a chat platform used by over a billion people across the globe. It is also expected to spark debate with governments who claim that E2EE hampers their capacity to combat crime.

Because of end-to-end encryption, Facebook cannot see the content of its users’ communications; only participants can. Third parties, such as hackers or law enforcement, will find it far more difficult (but not impossible) to eavesdrop on digital communications as a result of this.

Facebook parent Meta has been gradually adding additional levels of encryption to its numerous chat systems in recent years, but these efforts have not yet been consolidated. WhatsApp chats are encrypted by default, using the same protocol as the industry-standard secure messenger Signal; opt-in encryption for Instagram DMs is being evaluated, and Messenger supports E2EE through its “disappearing messages” feature. (The app formerly provided a similar “vanish option,” but this has been disabled as of today’s Facebook update.)

Facebook has been chastised for not making E2EE the default on Messenger, particularly in light of the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which means that digital footprints such as app conversations will be used as evidence in prosecuting newly criminalized abortions. This was illustrated in a recent case in which Facebook agreed with a police search request to turn up the Messenger conversation history of a Nebraskan minor and her mother, resulting in the pair’s prosecution for crimes relating to the state’s pre-existing abortion legislation.

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Facebook has said that it has been sluggish to make E2EE the default on all of its chat platforms due to the difficulties of integrating such technology into billions of applications and the necessity to balance user privacy and safety. In today’s update, Facebook underlined that it plans to make E2EE the default for all conversations and calls on Messenger “by 2023.”

In addition to the new default E2EE test, the firm introduced a feature called “safe storage,” which would encrypt cloud copies of users’ Messenger conversation history.

Other new Messenger capabilities being tested include the option to sync deleted messages across devices, the ability to unsend messages, and the addition of encryption to hands-free communications exchanged on Messenger using the company’s Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses.

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