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  • Marijan Hassan - Tech Journalist

Meta’s Facebook and Messenger apps to encrypt user messages by default

Good news for Facebook and Messenger users. All messages sent on the platforms will have end-to-end encryption meaning that only the sender and the receiver can access the content of a message. Not even Meta can see what users are sending to each other.

This is a big step towards more private and secure online usage but is expectedly facing pushback from government authorities who have in the past warned that making messages harder for third parties to read might facilitate criminal activity.

Following the announcement, UK Home Secretary James Cleverly was quoted saying that the decision “would empower child sex abusers and hamper the ability of the police and National Crime Agency to bring offenders to justice.”

In 2019, there was a massive clash between Meta and the Department of Justice when then-Attorney General William Barr called for the company to delay its companywide efforts to advance the technology.

“By enabling dangerous criminals to cloak their communications and activities behind an essentially impenetrable digital shield, the deployment of warrant-proof encryption is already imposing huge costs on society,” Barr argued in a speech at Fordham University’s International Conference on Cyber Security that July.

The plan to enable end-to-end encryption for all Meta platforms has been in the works for years. WhatsApp was the first to implement the technology in 2016. Messenger followed up shortly after but the feature was only available as an opt-in. Instagram also rolled out encryption as an opt-in feature in 2021.

The decision to move to encrypted communication mode was in response to rising scrutiny of Zuckerbag’s company as authorities feared that they had access to too much consumer data that they could use to manipulate people.

With this new feature, Meta is now on the same playing field as other messaging platforms including Signal and Apple’s iMessage.

On why it has taken so long to finally implement end-to-end encryption, Meta spoke specifically for the Messenger app saying that it needed a major overhaul of its code to make it possible.

“This is the biggest set of improvements to Messenger since it was first launched in 2011,” wrote Loredana Crisan, head of Messenger, adding that they have “worked tirelessly to rebuild Messenger features from the ground up.”


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