Until 2023, Meta will not provide full end-to-end encryption for Facebook Messenger and Instagram

  • Meta delaying plans to end-to-end encryption until 2023
  • Meta plans to monitor its platforms for abuse based on non-encrypted data
  • The Political battle over Meta’s end-to-end encryption in the UK

Facebook and Instagram owners are delaying plans to secure users’ messages until 2023 due to warnings from child safety campaigners that the methods would shield abusers from detection. Encryption means that only the sender and recipient can read each other’s messages.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced in 2019 that Meta would encrypt all its messaging services’ infrastructure. Meta’s private messaging app WhatsApp already uses end-to-end encryption.

Instagram and Messenger were merged last year, in a move the company hoped would create a unified messaging system across all of its platforms. Davis said Meta wants to “get this right,” so it plans on delaying the feature’s debut until 2023. Earlier this year, Meta said default E2EE would become available on Instagram and Messenger by the end of 2022, at the earliest.

Meta is delaying this due to safety concerns to ensure end-to-end encryption won’t prevent them from tracking criminal activity on their platforms. Meta plans to monitor its platforms for abuse based on non-encrypted data, account information, and user reports under the new encryption plans. WhatsApp is already using a similar system to monitor the platform. It might be difficult to detect any abuse or criminal activity on a platform that employs end-to-end encryption since the sender and recipient can only see messages.

2.8 billion people are using Meta’s apps every day. The tech industry made over 21m referrals to the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children about child sexual abuse in 2020. Around 20m of these referrals came from Facebook.

There has been a political battle over Meta’s campaign to end-to-end encrypt its services in the UK, focusing on children’s safety. With the support of officials from the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, consisting of the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, Priti Patel pressed Meta in 2019 to provide workarounds for law enforcement to view end-to-end encrypted messages. Meta says end-to-end encryption is essential for user privacy and can assist law enforcement in identifying criminals through metadata – information that isn’t included in the message itself.

Earlier this year, the US joined countries including the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India, and Japan to support laws that give local law enforcement access to encrypted files and messages with a warrant.

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