It is testing automatic end-to-end encrypted on the Messenger app.
End-to-End Encryption as the Default Option
On Thursday, Facebook announced that it is going to start testing end-to-end encryption. It will be a default option for some users of the Messenger app.
“With that in mind, we’re testing secure storage to back up those messages in case you lose your phone or want to restore your message history on a new, supported device. As with end-to-end encrypted chats, secure storage means that we won’t have access to your messages, unless you choose to report them to us.” – Meta
The announcement comes as Meta is getting adverse reactions after it was revealed that it handed over messages to a Nebraska authority. It helped the department in filing charges against a teen for conducting an illegal abortion.
Currently, end-to-end encryption is available on Messenger. However, you need to opt into the feature. When it is enabled, the only people who can access the content are the sender and recipient. In that case, if law enforcement would request it, Facebook could not hand it over.
Thus, if all Facebook messages were encrypted by default before a search warrant for Facebook user data was issued, the company would not be able to present the messages to the police. For many users, it is already too late for the company to offer this feature.
End-to-end encryption is a useful feature. However, it is difficult to implement. That’s why the testing will only happen to a few people for now. In that way, the company can guarantee that the system will work properly when it launches widely.
Furthermore, the company said that its decision to test the feature is not a response to a law enforcement request. For months now, Meta has been planning to test it. It announced its plans in early 2022 but delayed it to 2023.
In June, a detective from Norfolk asked the company for vital information about the mother’s Facebook ID. The detective also requested photos and private messages of the subject.
There is no clear information about the scope of the user data that the company handed over. However, according to the Lincoln Journal Star, Facebook provided the law enforcement private messages between the two people involved. The messages involved discussion about obtaining abortion pills.
When Roe Vs Wade was overturned, tech companies promised that they would not store or collect data from their users to prevent them from helping abortion-related prosecutions.
By expanding Facebook’s end-to-end encryption by default, the company can prevent itself from handing over sensitive information to law enforcement. But it should also stop retaining or collecting intimate information about its users.
It is still great for Meta to expand its E2EE feature, even though it is doing it incrementally. But if you want to use a more secure messaging platform, you might want to avoid Messenger. Signal is one of the better options as it stores no unencrypted data of its users. But if you wish to stick to Messenger make sure to turn on E2EE.