Meta – Instagram, Facebook, and WhatsApp’s parent company – decided to delay the end-to-end encryption on its messenger apps until 2023.
Meta (the new name of Facebook) merged Instagram and Messenger last year because it wants to develop a unified messenger system that functions across all its social media platforms. At the moment, the messages users send through Instagram or Messenger chats can be end-to-end encrypted, but the feature is turned off by default, and it will stick like this until 2023. WhatsApp supports E2EE by default because the developers created the app to provide superior protection from the beginning.
Meta confirmed that it intends to delay message encryption for Instagram and Messenger until 2023 because it wants to take its time to make sure it uses the most secure technology and doesn’t affect the user experience.
Antigone Davis, the global head of safety for Meta, stated that the company struggles to create a feature that offers users privacy and protection while preventing harmful and illegal behaviour on the chat. She revealed that the company intends to use a combination of non-encrypted data across all platforms, account information, and reports from users to maintain their safety and privacy while assisting public safety efforts. The strategy is similar to WhatsApp uses, which successfully integrates end-to-end encryption.
Meta decided to delay E2EE because child safety campaigners are worried that abusers can take advantage of the measure
Mark Zuckerberg decided to delay the plans for encrypting messages due to the warnings child safety campaigners sent. They think the integration can shield abusers from detection. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children stated that private messaging is a common form of child abuse online. It prevents tech platforms and law enforcement from checking the messages and ensuring. Apps like WhatsApp allow only the sender and recipient to view the content because they use end-to-end encryption. Priti Patel, the UK home secretary, is a vocal opponent of Meta’s initiative and stated that social media platforms shouldn’t integrate a feature that hampers victims’ protection and encourages criminal acts.
Meta’s platforms are used by 2.8 billion people daily. Around 21m referrals of child abuse identified on its apps have been made to the US National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, only in 2020. 20m of them were from Facebook.
Antigone Davis wrote in the Sunday Telegraph that Meta is confident that it can find a way to protect the users’ communications while keeping all users safe online. She said that the company would detect abuse even after integrating end-to-end encryption. Davis used the example of WhatsApp to prove that Meta can provide critical information to the authorities even after chat encryption. As stated before, Meta already uses E2EE for WhatsApp and plans to extend the feature to the other chat apps. At the moment, Messenger ensures encrypted video and voice calls.
Mark Zuckerberg stated that internet users expect their private communications to be secure. Only the recipients can see what they sent them (not another third-party like the government or operating services) when he announced that his company is about to start a privacy change.