According to a New York Times report, Facebook Inc is planning on adding end-to-end encryption to their flagship Facebook Messenger & Instagram Direct instant-messaging services which will join WhatsApp (which gained this feature in 2016) to make all of Facebook’s messaging platforms secured with the feature.
What’s end to end encryption again?
End to end encryption is a feature where the message sent from your device gets encrypted on the device before being sent & is decrypted only when it reaches the recipient’s device. Even if your data transfer is tapped, the data the data obtained by the intruders will be indecipherable.
The messaging service provider won’t be able to decrypt your texts either. This is really important for Facebook, a company that has been widely criticized for its data privacy issues & recently, the Cambridge-Analytica scandal. Adding end-to-end encryption will reassure Facebook’s users that their data isn’t being sold to advertisers or data analytics firms. This is not a bold step into the future though. Facebook is merely playing catch-up to other messaging services like Apple’s iMessage & Microsoft’s Skype, amongst others.
Facebook does offer an optional E2E encryption mode in Facebook Messenger which they call Secret Conversations. The only problem is that it is a separate mode that isn’t enabled by default. Now, Messenger & Instagram Direct will feature E2E encryption by default, and every message sent will be properly encrypted.
What makes Facebook’s planned end-to-end encryption deployment across all of their platforms exciting is that they also aim to enable cross-platform messaging. Not only does this mean that you can now send a text from one of Facebooks 3 messaging platforms to another one of their platforms, the message sent might also be encrypted. Now, this is groundbreaking. Until now, E2E encryption hasn’t ever been deployed across multiple platforms. Facebook plans to do this by reworking the underlying messaging infrastructure from the ground up. Each service will continue to operate as a standalone service though, so all the merging will be more under-the-hood than you might think.
The end users aren’t the only ones benefitting though. This strategic move will allow Facebook to have new users join their 3-platform messaging network & give existing users a big reason to not switch to other services. Facebook can potentially use their then growing userbase as a big feature to advertisers, who will invest more time & effort into their social media platforms. So, it’s a win-win for everybody.
As of writing, Facebook is yet to provide a timeline or an ETA for the new platform.
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