Meta has confirmed its intention to implement default end-to-end encryption for its Messenger product by the conclusion of this year, as detailed in a blog post on Tuesday. The post stated that a greater number of Messenger chats will now adopt stronger encryption standards due to ongoing testing of end-to-end encryption (E2EE). The company remains steadfast in its plan to launch default E2EE for one-on-one chats involving friends and family by year-end.
In a recent letter to Fight for the Future, Meta’s deputy privacy officer, Rob Sherman, reiterated this commitment, responding to the digital rights group’s pro-encryption campaign launched the previous year. The letter, which was reviewed, revealed that the added encryption layer is presently being tested for both Messenger and Instagram chats. While Messenger users can currently encrypt messages, they must actively opt in, as it is not the default setting.
Sherman stated, “We remain committed to rolling out default end-to-end encryption for private conversations on Messenger in 2023, and shortly thereafter for Instagram.” He emphasized that end-to-end encryption is the most effective technology available to safeguard messages and a compelling reason for users to select their products.
The push for major social platforms to institute default direct message encryption has gained momentum in the past year, stemming from the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Following this decision, a Nebraska teenager and her mother were prosecuted for an illicit abortion, partially due to their private chat history obtained from Meta. Advocates for digital rights stress the urgency of implementing this security feature to protect vulnerable individuals.
However, the prospect of default encryption has faced resistance from law enforcement groups, as it poses challenges in accessing evidence of criminal activities. Additionally, legislative efforts, such as Senator Lindsey Graham’s EARN IT Act, have raised concerns among civil rights organizations, as they fear it might result in legal action against platforms that offer encryption services for transmitting harmful content.
Sherman explained that the testing phase has taken longer than anticipated due to the difficulty of transitioning direct messages to servers capable of handling encrypted traffic. Furthermore, Meta needs to rebuild several product features before launching the service.
In January 2022, Messenger users gained the ability to opt in to encrypting their direct messages. Meta commenced testing automatic encryption by default in August of that year, a process that has been ongoing.