Facebook has begun testing default end-to-end encryption (E2EE) on Messenger. Parent company Meta Thursday announced that the test begins this week with chats between a small group of users. It will be automatically enabled for the selected users. Any new messages or calls between the people of the test group will be end-to-end encrypted by default.
Messenger has offered optional E2EE for some time now. It initially only covered one-to-one conversations but expanded the features to group chats earlier this year. However, the company has taken quite a long to make encryption a default behavior. In April last year, Facebook said it plans to make E2EE default in 2022. But it delayed the plans to 2023 in November, shortly after renaming the company to Meta.
Most of the popular messaging apps offer E2EE by default, including Meta’s WhatsApp. This makes it incredibly harder for anyone outside the participants of a conversation to access the messages. Unfortunately, Messenger has kept E2EE optional, which doesn’t quite serve the purpose. Not many people are conscious enough to enable the feature or have the know-how of it. The company is finally testing making E2EE default, adding another layer of security to conversations. A wider rollout may come in a few months down the line.
Facebook announces more changes to Messenger
In addition to making E2EE default, Messenger will also see several other new features and changes in the coming months. Firstly, there’s a new encrypted backup system where users will be able to securely store their messages. Accessing the backup will require a PIN or a code that users need to save. Messenger is now testing E2EE backup on Android and iOS apps.
Facebook has also announced the ability to unsend messages, reply to Facebook Stories, E2EE code verification, and syncing of deleted messages across devices for Messenger. Additionally, E2EE is coming to hands-free messages sent using the company’s Ray-ban Stories smart glasses.
One of the existing Messenger features is going away, though. Facebook says it is removing Vanish mode because disappearing messages already serve the same purpose. Both features made viewed messages in an end-to-end encrypted chat disappear automatically.
Last but not least, Meta is expanding its test of optional E2EE for messages and calls on Instagram. The limited test began in August last year. Users selected for the test see a prompt asking if they want to enable E2EE. It’s unclear when the company plans to widely roll out E2EE by default on Instagram.