Messenger, with 900 million active users, is getting end-to-end encryption. The feature will be rolled out selectively now, with all users getting it by the end of fall. Self-destructing messages will also be tested.
“This means the messages are intended just for you and the other person — not anyone else, including us. Within a secret conversation, you can also choose to set a timer to control the length of time each message you send remains visible within the conversation,” explains Facebook.
Users will likely be happy about the move, but law enforcement won’t be, although they should be thankful it’s opt-in, not default. End-to-end encryption means your messages are immune to remote surveillance by, say, the FBI.
It’s the sheer number of users—nearly a billion—that makes law enforcement agencies uneasy. They’ve long opposed encryption that blocks access to communications, claiming it makes things too easy for terrorists, drug dealers, and sexual predators.
Privacy advocates are not happy with Facebook’s decision to make it an opt-in feature, but even so, it’s a step forward in the eyes of most. WhatsApp, which Facebook owns, already encrypts all messages, and Apple encrypts all iMessages. But the reasons why Messenger didn’t go this route are obvious.
” Secret conversations can only be read on one device and we recognize that experience may not be right for everyone. It’s also important to note that in secret conversations we don’t currently support rich content like GIFs and videos, making payments, or other popular Messenger features,” Facebook points out.