Meta has started expanding the testing of its default end-to-end (E2E) encryption for Facebook Messenger, adding that millions of users will see their chat security upgraded over the next few months.
Meta first tested E2E encryption features – they scramble your messages in transit and unscramble them for the receiver – for Messenger back in 2016 for “secret conversations.”
And in January 2022, the company introduced E2E encryption for group chats and calls. However, it’s opt-in – this means that users have to deliberately seek to activate the features.
But now, Meta is beginning to roll out default E2E encryption. The company previously said it expected to introduce such protection across all its apps sometime in 2023.
Meta said in a blog post that some of the users’ chats will gradually be upgraded “with an extra layer of protection.” People will be notified as they are upgraded, and the lucky users – according to the company, millions of them – will be chosen randomly.
“We know people want a space to connect and they want to know that those conversations are private, safe and secure. That is why we’ve spent time building a team of talented engineers, cryptologists, designers and policy experts who are all committed to rolling out default end-to-end encryption on Messenger,” Meta said.
Messenger is also introducing more features into its E2E encrypted features, including chat themes, custom chat emojis and reactions, group profile photos, link previews, and active status.
Screenshot notifications were also introduced last year – to improve privacy, Messenger is detecting and informing users when someone takes a screenshot of their disappearing messages in E2E encrypted chats.
Another Meta-owned app, Instagram, began testing E2E encrypted messages through an opt-in setting in 2021 and introduced the feature for all users in Ukraine and Russia in February 2022.
It remains to be seen how law enforcement agencies around the world will react to another big tech firm introducing E2E encryption. As Callum Voge, a Senior Government Affairs & Advocacy Advisor at the Internet Society, a global nonprofit organization, told Cybernews in an interview, law enforcement agencies have been pushing for encryption backdoors for years now.
When Apple disclosed plans to let users encrypt various data categories in late 2022, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation said it was “deeply concerned” with the threat end-to-end encryption poses.
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