Facebook rolling out new encryption technology to keep messages secure

·2 min read
 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Facebook is rolling out new encrypted messages, to keep Messenger chats secure.

The new end-to-end encryption should mean that messages can only be read by the sender and recipient – and that nobody, including Facebook, can intercept them on their way.

The technology has proven controversial with some arguing that it helps keep law enforcement from seeing messages. But experts have argued that the system simply means that everybody’s messages will be made more secure.

Facebook has been promising that it will encrypt and secure messages for some time. But it is yet to roll out widely: at the moment, users are only able to choose to encrypt individual Messenger chats, and must opt in to do so.

In the new test, however, messages will be encrypted by default, with users not necessarily even aware that the feature is turned on.

It will bring Messenger more in line with Meta’s other messaging platform, WhatsApp, which already offers end-to-end encryption by default. Instagram’s DMs do not offer the feature, though it is currently in testing.

Currently Messenger offers a “disappearing messages” feature that allows for end-to-end encryption, but that will be removed as part of the new test.

The test on Messenger is only being used “between some people”, Facebook said in an update. The full feature is on track to roll out “in 2023”, it said.

In the same update, Facebook said it was trialling end-to-end encrypted backups in Messenger. That too will be turned on by default, meaning that any backups of chats will only be accessible by people with a specific code.

Some lawmakers and officials have argued that end to end encryption should be restricted, so that they can more easily read the messages of suspected criminals.

Digital rights groups and security experts have argued however that it is not possible to weaken encryption only for specific users, and that the added security is required to keep messages safe.

That argument has intensified in the wake of the overturning of Roe V Wade in the US, amid arguments that not encrypting messages could force platforms such as Facebook to hand over data on people looking for abortions