Facebook Messenger said to be rolling out opt-in encryption in the coming months

Facebook Messenger teaser 002

After WhatsApp and Viber both introduced end-to-end encryption last month, Facebook Messenger will become the next major messaging app to roll out this essential security feature, reports The Guardian.

Although end-to-end encryption on Messenger will be framed as an optional feature that users will need to manually enable, it will ensure that the contents of communications are hidden from eavesdroppers and that the identities of the participants are concealed.

Optional encryption in Messenger will prevent both authorities and Facebook from eavesdropping on texts exchanged between the app’s more than 900 million users.

The update should be available in the coming months, claims the British paper.

Why optional?

But why on Earth would Facebook make the tougher encryption future an opt-in rather than enable it by default for everyone? Because turning it on would basically get in the way of some new machine learning features that Facebook is building into Messenger.

Strong encryption permits only a message’s sender and recipient to decode the message, meaning Facebook cannot analyze texts to provide intelligent features.

This is precisely the problem that Google’s upcoming apps, Allo and Duo, will have to deal with. While video calls in Duo are always encrypted, a Chrome-like Incognito mode in the messaging app Allo, which enables end-to-end encryption, is an optional feature that users would need to manually enable were they to increase their security.

Because unencrypted Allo conversations are analyzed in the Google cloud to provide smart features like intelligent canned responses, enabling encryption in the app does offer additional security but at the expense of a live Google bot inside a chat stream and other such features that are based on server-side intelligence.

Source: The Guardian