Despite resistance from authorities, Meta begins roll-out of default end-to-end encryption for Messenger, Facebook
Meta Platforms has begun deploying additional security for two of its products that will improve privacy protection for users – against the wishes of governments and law enforcement.
Meta announced on Wednesday that it has begun to rollout default end-to-end encryption for all personal chats and calls on Messenger and Facebook, “making them even more private and secure.”
The move will infuriate governments and law enforcement around the world. A couple of months ago in September for example, the UK government had urged Meta not to roll out end-to-end encryption on Instagram and Facebook Messenger, citing the need to protect children.
But Meta believes there is a clear need to protect people’s privacy, safety and security.
“We take our responsibility to protect your messages seriously and we’re thrilled that after years of investment and testing, we’re able to launch a safer, more secure and private service,” said Meta this week.
It is understood that the encryption was built on the Signal protocol and Meta’s own Labyrinth protocol.
Meta has consistently opposed official attempts to halt the deployment of stronger encryption. Indeed, it was back in 2016 when Meta had switched on end-to-end encryption for WhatsApp – a move that placed CEO Mark Zuckerberg in the unique position of championing people’s right to privacy against officials.
Since that time Meta had mulled the default deployment of end-to-end encryption for Messenger and Facebook, all the while resisting government pressure.
In 2018 for example the US government pressured Facebook to break the encryption in its Messenger app, so law enforcement could listen to a suspect’s voice conversations in a criminal probe.
And in October 2019 Mark Zuckerberg defended his decision to encrypt the company’s messaging services, after an open letter protesting the move was signed by former UK Home Secretary Priti Patel, former US Attorney General Bill Barr, former acting US Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, and former Australian Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton.
Meta and Zuckerberg continued to defend the default use of end-to-end encryption for people’s messages, and in August 2021 Meta offered an encrypted Messenger call option, but did not switch it on by default amid government pushback.
In August 2022 Meta announced it was testing encrypted backups, and encrypted Messenger chats by default.
Now Meta has begun to deploy end-to-end encryption for all personal chats and calls on Messenger and Facebook, meaning that it will no longer have access to the content of what users send or receive, unless one user in a chat chooses to report a message to the company.
The new features will be available immediately but the company said it would take some time for Messenger chats to be updated with default end-to-end encryption.
Meta said that its engineers, cryptographers, designers, policy experts and product managers have “worked tirelessly to rebuild Messenger features from the ground up.”
It said it has introduced new privacy, safety and control features along the way like delivery controls that let people choose who can message them, as well as app lock, alongside existing safety features like report, block and message requests.
“The extra layer of security provided by end-to-end encryption means that the content of your messages and calls with friends and family are protected from the moment they leave your device to the moment they reach the receiver’s device,” said Meta. “This means that nobody, including Meta, can see what’s sent or said, unless you choose to report a message to us.”
“End-to-end encryption gives people more secure chats in Messenger,” it added. “These chats will not only have all of the things people know and love, like themes and custom reactions, but also a host of new features we know are important for our community. These new features will be available for use immediately, though it may take some time for Messenger chats to be updated with default end-to-end encryption.”
Other new features being rolled out include the ability to edit a message for up to 15 minutes after it was sent; disappearing messages lasting 24 hours; control over whether a sender can see if a user has read their message; and the ability to listen to voice messages in 1.5 or 2 times speed.