Meta Delays Facebook and Instagram Message Encryption to 2023

Amid warnings from child safety campaigners, Mark Zuckerberg has delayed plans to encrypt users’ messages on Facebook and Instagram until 2023.

The process, when implemented, would mean that only the sender and receivers can read messages, and Meta cannot.

In 2019, Facebook announced its plans to merge messaging functionality of Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger. However, because WhatsApp messages are already end-to-end encrypted, the only logical way to integrate the other platforms would be to bring them up to the same level of security. As positive as this is, it would also mean that no one, not even Meta itself, would be able to track encrypted discussions which could potentially further shield criminal activity.

Getting It Right The First Time

As Meta has made continuous progress on the initiative despite opposition, Meta’s Global Head of Safety, Antigone Davis has said that the reason the company is slowing growth on the initiative is to ensure that they get it right.

As said by Davis:

“At Meta, we know people expect us to use the most secure technology available, which is why all of the personal messages you send on WhatsApp are already end-to-end encrypted and why we’re working to make it the default across the rest of our apps. As we do so, there’s an ongoing debate about how tech companies can continue to combat abuse and support the vital work of law enforcement if we can’t access your messages. We believe people shouldn’t have to choose between privacy and safety, which is why we are building strong safety measures into our plans and engaging with privacy and safety experts, civil society and governments to make sure we get this right.”

According to Davis, Meta is making use of a three-pronged approach to maximise privacy and address certain concerns. This approach involves utilising proactive detection technology that looks for suspicious patterns of activity in messaging, providing more control for users to filter DM requests.

“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. This kind of work already enables us to make vital reports to child safety authorities from WhatsApp.”

However, this will take more development, which will in turn slow progress. Initially Meta had planned to implement the full integration by 2022, but Davis has extended that time frame to 2023.

“We’re taking our time to get this right and we don’t plan to finish the global rollout of end-to-end encryption by default across all our messaging services until sometime in 2023. As a company that connects billions of people around the world and has built industry-leading technology, we’re determined to protect people’s private communications and keep people safe online.”

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