Facebook Messenger has rolled out ‘Secret Conversations’ feature that will boost your private conversations. The feature was first reported back in July, but the social media behemoth only restricted the feature to a few users in order to test it. The new addition means no one will be able to access hidden messages—not even the government.
It will also prevent people from snooping on your messages, while providing you with a layer of security to chat freely with your contacts. Although the feature is now available to everyone, you will have to opt in to start using it. You cannot use multiple device or tablet so Facebook can send you an encryption key.
For now, Facebook is restricting the feature to cover text messages; no GIFs and Videos. There is also a timer option for every message within the thread—this will a message to self-destruct the same way it happens in Snapchat.
Facebook-owned WhatsApp has been using end-to-end encryption for almost a year now, and one would have expected the social media company to have rolled the feature out to the chat app earlier than now. However, this is quite commendable and will encourage more people to share their feelings with friends in a more relaxed and assuring atmosphere.
While WhatsApp, Telegram, iMessage and Viber all have end-to-end encryption turned on automatically, users on Messenger will be required to turn it on themselves. To use the feature, simply turn on secret conversation manually on the app.
“It’s table stakes in the industry now for messaging apps to offer this to people,” Messenger product manager Tony Leach told Wired. “We wanted to make sure we’re doing what we can to make messaging private and secure.”
The new feature [secret conversation] will use a protocol called Signal—a well-tested technology created by Open Whisper Systems. The system, is already being used by WhatsApp, Allo, Signal, and now Facebook has become the latest chat app to adopt it. Describing Facebook’s implementation of the feature as “reasonably done,” Open Whisper’s founder, Moxie Marlinspike told Wired that other major services may soon roll out his group’s crypto standard.
“We’re continuing to work with other people,” Marlinspike says cryptically. He won’t get more specific than to say that Open Whisper Systems seeks partnerships “where we can impact the largest number of users possible.”
In a blog post back in July, a Facebook spokesperson wrote: “We are starting to test the ability to create one-to-one secret conversations in Messenger that will be end-to-end encrypted and which can only be read on one device of the person you’re communicating with.”
Facebook Messenger has more than 1 billion users globally; a figure that makes it the largest chat app in the world. However, one would have thought the social media company should have turned on the end-to-end encryption feature on by default for all users the same way it did on WhatsApp.
This is just a first step I want to believe—considering that WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption is turned on by default.