Facebook’s chat will soon give users the choice to activate end-to-end encryption in their chats. Messages will also have a self-destruct feature which deletes conversations after a fixed amount of time. The new features are called “secret conversations” and offers full security for conversations that even Facebook won’t be able to read. Facebook wrote in a blog: “We’ve heard from you that there are times when you want additional safeguards. To enable you to do this we are starting to test the ability to create one-to-one secret conversations in Messenger that will be end-to-end encrypted and which can only be read on one device of the person you’re communicating with.”
What is End-to-End Encryption?
End-to-end encryption (E2EE) is a system of communication where only the communicating users can read the messages. In principle, it prevents potential eavesdroppers – including telecom providers, Internet providers, and even the provider of the communication service – from being able to access the cryptographic keys needed to decrypt the conversation. The systems are designed to defeat any attempts at surveillance and/or tampering because no third parties can decipher the data being communicated or stored. For example, companies that use end-to-end encryption are unable to hand over texts of their customers’ messages to the authorities.
Facebook Messenger’s secret conversations rely on technology from Open Whisper Systems, which also makes the free end-to-end encrypted messaging and voice call app Signal. Facebook used the same technology to build end-to-end encryption into WhatsApp, which it owns, in a process completed earlier this year. The company is following in the footsteps of Apple, whose iMessage system has protected users’ conversations with end-to-end encryption since 2011.