Facebook Messenger Rolls out End-to-End Encryption for Secret Conversations

Facebook Messenger End-to-End Encryption: Facebook has started rolling out a new feature for Messenger called as “Secret Conversations,” that will provide end-to-end encryption to lock up messages on the platform. However, unlike WhatsApp, the end-to-end encryption setting will not be default and users can choose to turn it on.

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“We’ve heard from you that there are times when you want additional safeguards — perhaps when discussing private information like an illness or a health issue with trusted friends and family, or sending financial information to an accountant,” Facebook said in a blog post last Friday.

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Secret Conversation —is a specialized conversation mode within Facebook Messenger.

Using end-to-end encryption means that only the sender and recipient of a message will able to unlock and read it – even Facebook itself won’t be able to see what you’re talking about.
End-to-end encryption has seen a boom in popularity in recent years as mainstream tech companies have started integrating it into their products amid heightened cybersecurity and surveillance fears.

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But that boom has also raised concerns from some law enforcement officials that it could stop them from being able to access the communications of criminals and terrorists even when investigators obtain a warrant.
Messenger has also taken steps to make sure that chats remain secure, even if a user’s device gets lost or stolen. In secret conversations, Messenger will allow users to set an expiration date for a message so that it won’t be visible in the conversation forever. Once the time runs out, the message will vanish from the devices of all users in the conversation. Facebook released technical details about its implementation of secret conversations in a white paper (PDF).

How can I start a Facebook End-to-End secret conversation?

  • To start a secret conversation, just tap on your friend’s name at the top of your current message thread. If you’re part of Facebook’s test group, you’ll see an option called “Secret Conversation.” Once you click it, a new conversation thread opens, with a notice at the top informing you that the chat is end-to-end encrypted.

  • The timer feature that allows messages to be erased after a certain time period has elapsed is located right next to the text field. It offers a drop-down list of times you can select for how long you want your message to last before it expires, ranging from 5 seconds all the way up to 6 hours.

Pros

  • A conversation that’s been encrypted can only be read by the sender and the receiver, preventing law enforcement or even Facebook itself from being able to intercept it.
  • The feature will also allow users to set a time limit for how long each message will remain visible in a conversation.

Cons

  • The encrypted messages can only be seen or read on one device. And thus, Facebook says that it has kept the secret message feature optional as people would want Messenger to work when they switch between devices, such as a tablet, desktop computer or phone.
  • The one-to-one secret conversations don’t support GIFs and videos or making payments.

Facebook is using the Signal Protocol built by Open Whisper Systems to develop secret conversations. The company is rolling out the encryption option to only a small subset of people at this time, with a wider rollout is expected later this summer.
Facebook first launched end-to-end encryption for WhatsApp. This ensures that users’ messages, videos, photos sent over WhatsApp can’t be read by anyone else — not WhatsApp, not cyber-criminals, not law-enforcement agencies. Even calls and group chats are encrypted.