Meta announced today that it will expand its end-to-end encryption testing to individual Messenger chats. Beginning this week, people who participate in the test will have their most frequent chats automatically protected by end-to-end encryption.
The announcement comes just days after the company was involved in a Nebraska case involving a teen facing abortion charges, in which the company turned over her private Facebook Messages to cops. Notably, if these messages had been encrypted end-to-end, Meta would not have been able to reveal these details.
End-to-end encryption features for Messenger were first tested by Meta in 2016 for “secret conversations.” Later, in 2021, it expanded that protection to include voice and video calls. The company introduced opt-in end-to-end encryption for groups in January.
Backups that are encrypted
For iOS and Android, the company is also testing the “secure storage” option for end-to-end encrypted conversations. Users will be able to protect their Messenger backup keys with a PIN or code and upload them to third-party cloud services such as iCloud or Google Drive. According to the company, the backup will remain on Meta servers.
Secure Storage currently only protects end-to-end chats — such as group conversations — on iOS and Android, and does not apply to non-encrypted chat or Messenger for web and desktop.
Last year, after years of criticism, WhatsApp began offering encrypted backup to its 2 billion+ users. While the chat app always provided end-to-end encryption for chats, its backups were not protected, giving law enforcement potential access to all data.
Meta also stated that it intends to expand its end-to-end encryption test for Instagram direct messages in the near future. Instagram began testing end-to-end encrypted messages last year via an opt-in setting. The feature was initially made available to all users in Ukraine and Russia in February.
In another experiment, the social media giant will soon allow users to unsend encrypted messages and sync deleted messages across devices.
Meta stated last year that it expects to implement default end-to-end encryption protection across all of its apps by 2023.