Facebook an update has been released about its future plans to enable end-to-end encryption (E2EE) by default on its Messenger chat platform.
So the company says it started testing the feature for conversations "between certain people" this week.
Facebook currently offers Messenger users the option to enable E2EE on a per-conversation basis, but such programs are generally used by a security-conscious minority.
Making end-to-end encryption the default will be a big step: adding a meaningful layer of security to a chat platform used by more than a billion people around the world.
It is also likely to cause controversy with governments who claim that E2EE hinders their ability to fight crime.
"End-to-end encryption makes it harder, though not impossible, for third parties to read your conversations"
End-to-end encryption means that Facebook will not be able to see the content of its users' messages, and only the participants will be able to. This makes it much more difficult (though not impossible) to read them for third parties such as hackers or law enforcement authorities who want to spy on digital conversations.
Over the past few years, Facebook's Meta has been slowly adding more and more layers of encryption to its various chat platforms, but all of these features have yet to be unified. WhatsApp chats are encrypted by default using the same protocol that the Signal secure chat standard uses. Opt-in encryption for Instagram DMs (direct messages) is also being tested, while Messenger offers E2EE through the "disappearing messages" function.
Facebook has been criticized for not implementing the E2EE default in Messenger, especially in the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade in the United States, where digital fingerprints of conversations will be used as evidence in the prosecution of newly criminalized abortions.
Facebook complied with a police search warrant and turned over the Messenger chat history of a teenage girl and her mother, which led to the couple being prosecuted for an abortion.
Facebook previously said it was slow to roll out E2EE by default across all of its chat platforms because of the difficulty of integrating this technology into apps used by billions of users.
In today's update, the company reiterated that it's on track to bring E2EE as the default for all Messenger chats and calls "in 2023."