TECH

Facebook Will Allow 900 Million People To Keep Messages Secret

Encryption is coming to Messenger in a move that is not without controversy.

09/07/2016 12:26 AM AEST | Updated 09/07/2016 12:26 AM AEST
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Facebook announced it will introduce end-to-end encryption on its popular Messenger service.

Facebook Messenger will soon allow all of its 900 million users to communicate with end-to-end encryption, the company said Friday.

The update will ensure user privacy and prevent anyone ― including law enforcement agencies and Facebook itself ― from accessing communications that occur on the popular texting service. Messenger is a separate service from Facebook’s core app and website that allows people to have private conversations with their friends. It’s accessible via a smartphone app or on Messenger.com.

“We put people first in everything we do at Messenger, and today we are beginning to roll out a new option within Messenger to better support conversations about sensitive topics,” Facebook said in a blog post.

The language is familiar for the social media giant, whose CEO Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly stated that the company’s goal is to “connect the world.”

That mission is sometimes complicated. Just this week, the company had a sloppy response to a live video recorded and published via the Facebook app that showed the aftermath of a fatal police-involved shooting in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota. And its WhatsApp messaging service ― which uses the same type of encryption that’s now being introduced to Messenger ― has been used by the self-described Islamic State to traffic sex slaves.

Many tech companies, including Apple, have introduced end-to-end encryption to users in a bid to guarantee privacy, a growing concern for many. Whether that’s appropriate is up for debate, with some people arguing that law enforcement groups should be able to access the communications of criminal suspects. 

Messenger’s encryption will be optional. That’s because part of the platform’s appeal is that you can use it across devices. Enabling “secret conversations,” as Facebook puts it, will limit those conversations to a single device because of how the technology works.

Some users are able to beta test the encryption feature now, but most will get it later this summer, Facebook said.

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