Meta will strengthen Messenger’s encryption to a level comparable to WhatsApp.

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Meta announced on Wednesday evening that all Messenger users’ calls and conversations will be encrypted by default. This significant privacy enhancement brings Messenger closer in style to its sibling, WhatsApp. Meta will strengthen Messenger’s encryption to a level comparable to WhatsApp.

The head of Messenger, Loredana Crisan, wrote in an accompanying blog post that “no one, including Meta, can see what’s sent or said unless you choose to report a message to us” due to the encryption technology.

Crisan stated that encrypting all Messenger conversations will require an indeterminate duration for Meta. The company’s approach was guided by several “cryptographic principles,” one of which was devised internally and the other of which is employed by the widely used Signal encrypted messaging application.

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Messenger users have been able to protect their conversations with end-to-end encryption since 2016. This method entails scrambling users’ communications, preventing unauthorized data access. Although WhatsApp, another messaging application developed by Meta, also employs end-to-end encryption, Signal has been widely regarded by privacy advocates as a more secure communication service due to its reduced user data collection.

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, wrote on Wednesday on Facebook, “After years of work rebuilding Messenger, we’ve updated the app with default end-to-end encryption for all personal calls and messages.” “The team deserves tremendous congratulations on making this happen.”

In 2019, Mark Zuckerberg announced that the social networking company would implement encryption technology for all private communications within its suite of applications. This marked a significant privacy initiative, which Zuckerberg attributed to a shift in consumer behavior wherein individuals “desire to connect privately in the digital equivalent of the living room.”

Zuckerberg stated then, “I believe the future of communication will increasingly shift towards private, encrypted services where people can be certain that what they say to one another remains secure and that their messages and content will not persist forever.”

Zuckerberg expounded upon his vision for Facebook and prioritized privacy after a series of data-privacy missteps, most notably the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which severely harmed the organization’s standing.

Meta introduced additional privacy-related updates over time, including a 2021 pilot that allowed Instagram users in select countries to elect to have their direct messages encrypted.

Meta conducted a test on Messenger in 2022 that enabled users to create backups of their end-to-end encrypted conversations to access them from a different device if necessary. A Meta spokesperson stated at the time that the tests were unrelated, despite the fact that the tests were conducted shortly after the social networking company handed over Messenger conversation histories to Nebraska law enforcement in their investigation of an alleged illegal abortion in the state.

Meta’s most recent encryption announcement will contribute to a continuing discourse concerning privacy and law enforcement’s investigative capabilities. This was illustrated in 2016 when the Federal Bureau of Investigation requested Apple to develop software that could assist in unlocking the iPhones of suspects involved in a high-profile shooting in San Bernardino, California.

Apple declined to comply, stating at the time, “Ironically, the very engineers who designed robust encryption for the iPhone to safeguard our users would be tasked with compromising those safeguards and reducing the safety of our users.”

Recently, representatives from WhatsApp and Signal have declared that their platforms would be inaccessible in the United Kingdom should legislators pass legislation compromising encryption. Meta’s encryption drive, according to the U.K. government, would make it more challenging to detect online child abuse activities.