Amid concerns from authorities, Facebook still wants to push its plan to have full, default end-to-end encryption for all its messaging tools, not only WhatsApp.
The social network recently showed an overview of a recent virtual workshop held with experts in privacy, safety, human rights and consumer protection.
“We’re working hard to bring default end-to-end encryption to all of our messaging services. This will protect people’s private messages and mean only the sender and recipient, not even us, can access their messages. While we expect to make more progress on default end-to-end encryption for Messenger and Instagram Direct this year, it’s a long-term project and we won’t be fully end-to-end encrypted until sometime in 2022 at the earliest,” said Facebook.
The continued work will thrill privacy advocates. But some authorities have raised alarms over the plan.
End-to-end encryption hides criminal activity. And regulators cannot track these exchanges.
Facebook announced in March 2019 its plan to implement messaging encryption. It was a move towards enabling more data transfer options for messaging services.
“End-to-end encryption is an important tool in developing a privacy-focused social network. Encryption is decentralizing – it limits services like ours from seeing the content flowing through them and makes it much harder for anyone else to access your information. This is why encryption is an increasingly important part of our online lives, from banking to healthcare services,” said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Facebook seemed to focus on expanding messaging, such as ecommerce and funds transfers. It aligns with the social network’s efforts to make messaging its key connector in places where there’s a rapid rise in digital adoption, like India and Indonesia.
Still, authorities rang the alarm. They thought full encryption is a safe haven for criminal activity.
American, British and Australian representatives signed an open letter addressed to Facebook in October 2019. They called on the company to drop its plans for end-to-end encryption
“…put our citizens and societies at risk by severely eroding capacity to detect and respond to illegal content and activity, such as child sexual exploitation and abuse, terrorism, and foreign adversaries’ attempts to undermine democratic values and institutions, preventing the prosecution of offenders and safeguarding of victims,” they argued.
The governments asked backdoor access to Facebook for official investigations. Facebook refused.
Debates have sprouted left and right ever since. The UK digital minister warned he has serious concerns on Facebook’s plan. The UK’s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children argued how Facebook put the privacy needs of adults first over children.
“Private messaging is at the front line of child sexual abuse, but the current debate around end-to-end encryption risks leaving children unprotected where there is most harm,” said NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless.
Facebook seems adamant in testing how much effort authorities will put in to foil its plans.