Meta has announced that it will encrypt the personal calls and chats of every Messenger user by default, a significant privacy update making the service more akin to its sibling WhatsApp. This move means that nobody, including Meta, can access the content of these communications unless a user chooses to report a message. The encryption rollout will take some time to complete, and Meta relied on cryptographic principles, including some developed in-house and others used by the Signal encrypted messaging app.
While Messenger users could opt-in for end-to-end encryption since 2016, this default encryption brings a more robust privacy standard to the platform. The shift aligns with Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s vision for the future of communication, emphasizing private, encrypted services where user interactions remain secure. Zuckerberg has emphasized a privacy-centric approach following data-privacy issues, including the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
This encryption update is part of Meta’s broader efforts to enhance privacy across its platforms. In 2021, Instagram conducted a test allowing users in select countries to opt-in to encrypted direct messages. In 2022, Meta tested the ability for Messenger users to back up their end-to-end encrypted conversations. The latest encryption announcement from Meta may fuel ongoing debates around privacy and law enforcement’s ability to conduct investigations, a topic highlighted in the past, such as the 2016 dispute between the FBI and Apple over unlocking an iPhone in the San Bernardino shooting case. The move towards default encryption has also sparked discussions about its impact on combating online child abuse activities.
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