Facebook Messenger to launch Snapchat-style 'disappearing' messages and end-to-end encryption
Published 08/07/2016 | 15:05
FACEBOOK is planning to make it easier to keep conversations private through the introduction of a new "secret messages" function.
Facebook Messenger has become the latest social media app to roll out encryption as a feature on its app, thus making certain conversations completely private. The new feature will be called "Secret Conversations" and will exist within the regular app - similar to an incognito tab in your web browser.
The app, currently used by more than 900m people globally, takes its lead from sister-app WhatsApp which rolled out end-to-end encryption for its 1 billion users across all devices in April.
You can start a secret chat with any Facebook friend and the thread will be "end-to-end" encrypted, which means only the people communicating can access messages sent. Eavesdroppers, such as cyber-criminals, telecoms, governments – and even Facebook itself – cannot read the conversations.
Additionally, there will be a new "timer" option for every message within the thread, which causes the message to self-destruct after the set time, similar to popular app Snapchat.
"My teenage daughter just started her first internship and needed her social security number, which is secure but I didn’t know how to send it to her with total peace of mind,” said David Marcus, who heads the Facebook Messenger unit. “We have so many identity theft issues here, that I wouldn't send it by email or want it to stay in a thread."
The normal Facebook Messenger app will remain unchanged - you can still access your chat history on any device when you are logged into Facebook.
But secret conversation threads will only be available on one device for added security, rather than being accessible through the cloud.
"It’s always a question of the next level of security. Currently, you don’t know for sure that there's no one between your device and your recipient's device,” Marcus said. “That’s the nature of end-to-end encryption which is the extra step we have added.”
This step to encrypt communications comes in the wake of technology giants taking a stand to protect user privacy. For instance, all Apple devices such as iPhones and iPads are end-to-end encrypted, which meant they were unable to comply with the FBI’s request to grant access to a suspected terrorist’s iPhone.
In practice, the introduction of secret messaging means it will now become far more difficult for Facebook to provide law enforcement or other governmental authorities copies of any of your communications through Messenger, even if requested by warrant.
The new feature will be tested on small groups across different countries and be rolled out across Facebook by September.