Meta starts roll-out of E2EE for all Messenger users

In a move certain to draw more ire from unfriendly governments, Meta said it started enabling end-to-end encryption (E2EE) by default for all Messenger users.

Not a lot can unite tech companies and human rights activists – but efforts to implement E2EE on user chats certainly can.

That’s because concerns over moves in the United Kingdom and elsewhere to make it easier for law enforcement to access encrypted messages to help tackle child abuse continue to grow.

Meta said that it expected to finish the procedures and have all Messenger users on E2EE chats by the end of the year. The company has been working on the project since 2019 and explained in a blog post it had to rebuild more than 100 features to accommodate encrypted chats.

“The goal is to enhance the security we already provide and give people additional confidence that their personal messages will remain private,” said Timothy Byck, product manager at Messenger.

However, the UK has long been pushing tech companies to actually open up E2EE communications in the name of child safety with its Online Safety Bill.

Callum Voge, a senior government affairs and advocacy advisor at the Internet Society, a global nonprofit organization fighting for open and secure internet, also told Cybernews in an interview recently the European Commission’s proposal for addressing the proliferation of online child sexual abuse material online would actually make everyone, including children, less safe.

According to Voge and lots of other online privacy advocates, the proposal, if implemented, will threaten encryption in the form of automated searches for child sexual abuse material.

Now, in Australia, seemingly eager to follow the UK’s lead, the Criminal Intelligence Commission also said that plans by Meta to make Messenger and Instagram E2EE messaging raised concerns that existing technologies the platforms use to detect child abuse material will not work.

“The National Centre for Missing & Exploited Children has estimated that Meta’s implementation of end-to-end encryption across all its major platforms will reduce the number of child sexual abuse material reports it receives by more than 50%,” the Commission said.

Debates aren’t exactly raging yet as the draft legislation in both the EU and the UK remain under discussion. And even if the proposals are adopted, they’re certain to face legal challenges.

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