Facebook, Messenger, end-to-end encrption

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Sooner or later, it had to happened. End-to-end encryption in Facebook Messenger took a while in coming but we all knew it would happen. It wasn’t a matter of if, but of when. Why it took this long is another matter for another day.

Facebook, Messenger, end-to-end encrption
Facebook Messenger encryption

Since the FBI vs Apple case petered out, one messaging app or the other have being introducing end-to-end encryption to bolster security on their app. The most prominent was WhatsApp which introduced the service a few months back. A few weeks later, it was the turn of Viper to do the same.

Since then,  practically everyone knew it would be the turn of Messenger. The fact is, Facebook have being pulling out the stops to make their Messenger app the number one app in the world. There has being a rash of updates to the app to make it relevant for everybody.

So the latest and logical step was to make it as secure as any app out there.

Facebook, Messenger, end-to-end encrption
David Markus

The news was announced by David Marcus, who heads the Facebook Messenger unit. He broke the news as a status update on his Facebook page:

Providing more ways for people to safely share is an important part of making the world more open and connected. Whether you’re asking a doctor for medical advice, sending sensitive account information to your spouse, or even your Social Security Number, it’s important to have options available for sharing these kinds of very sensitive messages. That’s why I’m glad to announce that Messenger is starting to test a feature called secret conversations that will both encrypt messages end-to-end, and enable you to set a timer to control how long each message you send stays visible in the conversation on both devices (yours and your recipient’s).”

Apart from the news by David Marcus, Facebook were kind enough to make available the technical details of how end-to-end encryption works on Messenger. But to majority of users, how the whole thing works is what they want to know, not some confusing technical terms that most people will find confusing.

First of all, at least for now, end-to-end encryption is not the default setting. The secret conversation must be enabled.

To initiate secret conversation, tap the name of the friend at the top of the chat box. An option labelled ‘Secret conversation‘ should appear. Since this feature is only for a select few for now, the option would only appear if you are part of the test group.

Facebook, Messenger, end-to-end encrption
Messenger secret conversations

Clicking on the ‘Secret Conversation‘ option would open a new conversation window. A message would appear at the top telling you that your messages are now encrypted at both ends. That is, only you and your friend would be able to see the chats.

The second significant aspect of this update is the ability for messages to self-destruct after a certain time. You have the option of setting how long you want a message to remain before it self-destructs.

Facebook, Messenger, end-to-end encrption
Messenger Secret chats

The timer function is located right next to the text box where typed messages appear. By tapping on it, you will see a selection of times you can select to set how long you want the message to last before it is erased automatically. The least time is 5 seconds. While the highest is 6 hours.

As what stated earlier, the feature is still in the testing phase. This is one feature that would certainly make it to general release. There is no chance that Facebook might decide to shelf the idea. It is going to happen.

The point now is, how long would it remain as a test feature. Not long I hope. Security is now one of the most talked about issue in the online world right now. So for Facebook and Messenger, enabling that feature for everybody soon should be the most important agenda for them.


image credits: techcrunch.com; Facebook;