In brief: Messenger and Instagram's parent company previously promised it would implement end-to-end encryption (E2EE) by 2022 across all of its messaging apps. However, according to Meta's head of security, it will take longer than anticipated, as it won't happen until sometime in 2023.
When Meta was still called Facebook, it stated that E2EE would become available on Messenger and Instagram by 2022 at the earliest, but that's not the case anymore. As written by Antigone Davis, the global head of safety at Meta, this feature will only be added in 2023.
The reason for the delay lies in developing a system where the social media conglomerate can continue to support law enforcement and tackle online abuse without violating your privacy (read access to the contents of your messages). To develop such a system, Meta has been "building strong safety measures into [its] plans and engaging with privacy and safety experts, civil society and governments."
In summary, Meta aims to develop a system focusing on three key aspects.
Also read: Messaging Apps: Encrypted or not? WhatsApp, iMessage, Discord, Zoom, etc.
The first aspect consists of a "proactive detection technology" that searches for suspicious activity and takes action accordingly. This technology is already live, but continuous development to improve it is still underway. Moreover, Meta will go the extra mile to protect underage individuals, educating them about online dangers, defaulting their accounts to private or "friends only," and restricting adults from messaging them unless already connected.
As for the second part of the approach, the social media company will be giving out more control to users, allowing them to choose who they talk to. Meta has already implemented features that let users decide who can message them and who can't. Filtering Direct Message requests on Instagram is also possible, eliminating anything containing offensive content.
For the third and last aspect, the social media giant will be encouraging users to report harmful messages and even prompt them to do so if Meta believes it's starting to become a problem. Reported messages and users will then be investigated, and if necessary, information will be sent to the responsible authorities.
E2EE is already available on WhatsApp, ensuring the contents of messages can only be read by the sender and the recipient, and preventing hackers and criminals from accessing and using them for nefarious purposes.
"As we roll out end-to-end encryption we will use a combination of non-encrypted data across our apps, account information and reports from users to keep them safe in a privacy-protected way while assisting public safety efforts," stated Davis. "This kind of work already enables us to make vital reports to child safety authorities from WhatsApp."
While Meta works on implementing E2EE to its other messaging apps, alternatives like Telegram and Signal have been growing in popularity, even more so after the incident that brought the Facebook network down.
Masthead credit: Brett Jordan