Facebook Messenger testing stronger encryption

Facebook Messenger testing stronger encryption

Facebook Messenger is testing a “Secret” mode with stronger encryption that is safer from hackers but dramatically limits law enforcement’s ability to access communications. 

“We put people first in everything we do at Messenger, and today we are beginning to roll out a new option within Messenger to better support conversations about sensitive topics,” Facebook said in a blog post on Friday announcing the new feature. 

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Secret mode enables end-to-end encryption, meaning the only person who can decrypt a message is the person who it is sent to. It also enables messages that can self-destruct. 

Both features have substantial consumer upside. It will mean that, for example, medical or business information can be sent over Facebook without the fear of someone retrieving it by hacking the sender’s or receiver’s accounts. 

It also means that oppressive nations and those known for state-sponsored industrial espionage will not be able to tap Facebook for secure communications. Many countries are enacting data localization laws that would force Facebook to keep servers within their borders — and the jurisdiction of their warrants. 

U.S. law enforcement has often argued against end-to-end encryption for exactly that reason. End-to-end encryption means that law enforcement cannot monitor Messenger simply by sending a warrant to Facebook, as they would not be able to decrypt Secret messages. 

FBI Director James Comey has referred to criminals’ ability to evade warrants by using encryption as “going dark.”

Facebook Secret will use a well-respected encryption system developed by Open Whisper Systems for the Signal messenger app. 

The social media network is testing Secret on a limited basis but hopes to roll out wider access by the end of the summer.