Facebook is set to roll out a new encryption tool to protect the privacy of user’s conversations.
The ‘secret conversations’ feature will mean nobody but the recipient of a message will be able to access it – not even Facebook, reports Wired.
Facebook-owned messaging service Whatsapp rolled out encryption to all users back in April, but is only testing the service with a small percentage of messenger users at present.
Messenger product manager Tony Leach said:
It’s table stakes in the industry now for messaging apps to offer this to people.
We wanted to make sure we’re doing what we can to make messaging private and secure
Secret conversations uses a protocol created by non-profit Open Whisper Systems, and works using a ‘lock’ to which only members of a conversation or group chat will have the distinct ‘key’ to access.
One major difference with Facebook’s intended plans and those already functioning on Whatsapp is that Facebook’s encryption service will be opt-in.
Google was previously criticised for failing to make encryption a default setting on their Allo service when ‘incognito’ was activated. Facebook could face similar criticism.
— Nate Cardozo (@ncardozo) May 18, 2016
Making encryption opt-in was a decision made by the business and legal teams. It enables Google to mine chats and not piss off governments.
— Christopher Soghoian (@csoghoian) May 18, 2016
Matt Green, a computer scientist who reviewed Facebook’s encryption as a consultant, said:
This is not sucking up to governments. Just doing this will tick them off as much as doing this by default.
It is expected to be released to all users in late summer or early autumn and will protect them from surveillance by external bodies, but it does not in anyway prevent paranoid spouses from accessing messages on your phone or computer – if that is your shady concern or hope, just make sure your pin is secure.