Facebook Messenger Implements Default End-to-End Encryption, Increasing Privacy and Safety

In a significant development, Loredana Crisan, Head of Messenger, announced on December 6, 2023, that Messenger and Facebook are implementing default end-to-end encryption for personal messages and calls. This move is accompanied by a suite of new features aimed at providing users with greater control over their messaging experience. Crisan emphasized the company's commitment to taking responsibility for protecting users' messages and expressed excitement about launching a safer, more secure, and private service.

Become a Subscriber

Please purchase a subscription to continue reading this article.

Subscribe Now

While Messenger has offered the option for users to turn on end-to-end encryption since 2016, the recent update makes private chats and calls across Messenger end-to-end encrypted by default. This shift required a concerted effort from a team of engineers, cryptographers, designers, policy experts, and product managers who worked vigorously to rebuild Messenger features from the ground up.

The enhanced security measures provided by end-to-end encryption mean that the content of messages and calls is protected from the moment they leave the sender's device until they reach the recipient's device. Notably, even Meta, the parent company, cannot access the content unless a user chooses to report a message.

In addition to default end-to-end encryption, Messenger introduces several privacy, safety, and control features. Users can now edit messages within 15 minutes of sending them, report abuse in an edited message, and enjoy disappearing messages that last for 24 hours after being sent. The interface has been improved to make it easier to identify when disappearing messages are turned on.

The company is currently testing HD media and file sharing improvements, and users can now play voice messages at different speeds, pick up listening from where they left off, and continue listening while navigating away from the chat or app.

Acknowledging the importance of transparency, Messenger is openly sharing its security technology and engaging with external cryptographers and security experts. Two papers outlining the company's approach to cryptography and the encryption of users' message history with Secure Storage are being published.

Given Messenger's extensive user base of over a billion, the global rollout of default end-to-end encryption is expected to take months. Users whose chats are upgraded will be prompted to set up a recovery method, such as a PIN, ensuring the ability to restore messages in case of device changes or losses.

Loredana Crisan expressed pride in Messenger's evolution, describing it as a fast and reliable service with enjoyable features and robust safety tools, now enhanced by the added privacy and security of end-to-end encryption. This latest update represents the most significant set of improvements to Messenger since its launch in 2011.