Meta Launches End to End Encryption by Default on Messenger - Digital Ratha
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Meta Launches End to End Encryption by Default on Messenger

Meta Launches End to End Encryption by Default on Messenger

Why is Meta launching end-to-end encryption by default on Messenger?  

After almost five years of work, including various regulatory challenges, Meta has finally moved to the next stage of its roll-out of end-to-end (E2E) encryption as the default in Messenger.

What does Meta say about the update?

The update, Meta says, has required a ground-up rebuild of the app, with stronger privacy at the core. It will assure users that their private chats will remain that way, no matter who might seek to infiltrate them, be it Meta or anybody else.

What does Meta explain about it?

 The extra layer of security provided by end-to-end encryption means that the content of your messages and calls with friends and family are protected from when they leave your device to when they reach the receiver’s device.

It means Meta can only see what is being sent or said if you choose to report a message to us.

By default, the shift to full encryption moves Messenger more in line with WhatsApp and was initially announced as part of Meta’s broader plan to integrate its various messaging tools.

To simplify cross-app communication, we will eventually see the development of a single, universal inbox that will include all of your Messenger, WhatsApp, and I.G. Direct chats. Most importantly, it will be accessible from each service, too.

What is the plan of Meta?

The plan seems to have hit a slight snag recently, with Meta announcing that it is removing the option to conduct cross-app chats between Facebook and Instagram.

Although this update could have been made in preparation for this change with I.G., Direct chats still need to be encrypted by default.

Or it could be related to new E.U. regulations and Meta’s effort to align Messenger and Instagram Direct with Facebook and I.G. to avoid being governed separately.

Several users asked Meta for clarity on the reasoning but have yet to respond.

What will happen to the Messenger chats in the future?

Either way, all of your Messenger chats will soon be encrypted, while Meta is also adding some other new features to bring Messenger further into line with WhatsApp’s functions.

First, you will soon be able to edit your messages for up to 15 minutes after you send them, as you can on WhatsApp.

Disappearing messages will also last 24 hours, as they do on WhatsApp. At the same time, Meta makes it easier to see when disappearing messages are active in your chats.

What more has Meta added?

Meta has also added new read receipt controls, improved visual display options, and variable playback speeds for audio messages. Again, it’s like WhatsApp.

Is expanding encryption to other apps a good or bad thing for Meta?

But encryption is the big addition, and the one that Meta has been fighting to enact, despite various groups opposing the change, due to the risk that it could facilitate more criminal activity in Meta’s apps like Instagram, Facebook, or WhatsApp.

The U.K. Government has been one of the most vigorous opponents, with former U.K. Home Affairs Secretary Priti Patel calling on Meta to reconsider its plans for expanded messaging encryption.

Due to the potential limitation that it might impose on police attempting to investigate and prevent child abuse. In September last year, Patel labeled the shift to full encryption as ‘catastrophic.’’

Various other security officials have voiced similar concerns, and it remains a vital issue within this shift.

The counter, then, is the potential for governments and corporate owners to snoop on people’s private messages if encryption isn’t enabled.

What did Meta’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg outline back in 2021?     

There is a growing awareness that the more entities that have access to your data, the more vulnerabilities there are for someone to misuse it or for a cyber attack to expose it.

There is also a growing concern among some people that such a technology might be centralizing power in the hands of governments and companies like ours.

And some people worry that our services could access their messages and use them for advertising or in other ways they don’t expect.

But it goes further than that, especially when considering people living under authoritarian regimes or in war zones, where sharing information anonymously could be vital in saving lots of lives.

In the last year, I have spoken with dissidents who have told me encryption is why they are free or alive. Governments often make unlawful demands for data.

While we push back and fight these requests in court, there is always a risk that we will lose a case, and if the information is not encrypted, we either have to turn over the data or risk our employees being arrested if we fail to comply.

What WhatsApp chief Will Cathcart has to say about it?

WhatsApp chief Will Cathcart has also been a strong proponent for expanded messaging encryption. He calls it one of the most powerful technologies and wants to keep everyone safe.

So, there is a clear case for encryption, though Meta also acknowledges the risk of facilitating nefarious activities in its apps that are already happening without encryption.

What does the Wall Street Journal’s Report say about it?

Earlier this week, The Wall Street Journal published a report that explained how two independent research groups, The Stanford Internet Observatory and The Canadian Centre for Child Protection, have both been tracking various instances of online social media groups.

According to them, some of these social media groups have millions of members who have been distributing child sexual abuse material (CSAM) across both Facebook and Instagram.

And that is only what they can track, with encrypted messaging groups on WhatsApp likely facilitating the distribution of CSAM.

Indeed, throughout 2021, Meta detected and reported 22 million pieces of child abuse imagery to the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).

In 2020, NCMEC also reported that Facebook was responsible for 94% of the 69 million child sex abuse images written by U.S. technology companies.

Meta is working to address this and constantly removing profiles, groups, and posts. But the sheer scale of Meta’s network makes this a never-ending task.

You can only imagine hiding even more from any possible view will worsen the situation.

It is why the shift towards greater encryption has faced scrutiny and part of why it has taken Meta five years to implement.

So, is it a good move?

Many people don’t know. No one does. But there are strong advocates on both sides. Meta is more aligned with the view that most users only intend to utilize stronger security for good instead of criminal purposes.

But then again, more encryption also benefits Meta in many respects.

If you cannot detect such activity, you cannot hold Meta to account for facilitating it, so the more it gets hidden, the less Meta can be held accountable for the same.

People who oppose encryption need help agreeing with Meta’s perspective.

But again, several independent experts agree that encryption should be the default, and again, there are many other reasons why it is a positive move.

But there are risks and significant ones at that.

Hopefully, the positives do end up outweighing such concerns.

Do you want to know more?

Click here for more updates on Meta and all its social media platforms.

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