Meta to encrypt all calls and messages on Facebook and Messenger
Such encryption means that no one other than the sender and the recipient — not even Meta — can decipher people’s messages. Encrypted chats, first introduced as an optional feature in Messenger in 2016, will now be the standard for all users going forward, Messenger head Loredana Crisan said.
“This has taken years to deliver because we’ve taken our time to get this right,” Crisan wrote in a blog post. “Our engineers, cryptographers, designers, policy experts and product managers have worked tirelessly to rebuild Messenger features from the ground up.”
Meta Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg promised, back in 2019, to bring end-to-end encryption to its platforms after the social media company suffered a string of high-profile scandals, notably when Cambridge Analytica accessed user data on Facebook. Privacy advocates again shined a spotlight on Meta after Nebraska investigators reviewed private Facebook messages while investigating an abortion that violated a state 20-week ban.
Meta, whose WhatsApp platform already encrypts messages, said the feature can help keep users safe from hackers, fraudsters and other criminals.
States have sued Facebook’s parent company, saying it knew Instagram and other products could harm young users’ mental health but didn’t do enough to help.
Meanwhile, encryption critics, law enforcement and even a Meta report released in 2022 note the risks of enhanced encryption, including users who could abuse the privacy feature to sexually exploit children, facilitate human trafficking and spread hate speech.
“What will Meta’s bosses say to children who have suffered sexual abuse, whose trauma will be compounded by their decision not to preserve their privacy? How will they justify turning a blind eye to this illegal and harmful content being spread via their platforms?” said Internet Watch Foundation CEO Susie Hargreaves. “The company has a strong track record in detecting large amounts of child sexual abuse material before it appears on its platforms. We urge Meta to continue this vital protection.”
The new features will be available immediately, but Crisan wrote that it would take some time for the privacy feature to be rolled out to all of its users.
As California considers a bill that would force tech platforms to pay publishers for news content, Meta has warned it would pull content in retaliation.