Meta will not enable end-to-end encryption by default for messages within Facebook Messenger and Instagram until 2023. Antigone Davis, head of security at Meta, writes in an article for The Telegraph. Earlier, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram mentioned 2022 as a possible date for encrypting messages with end-to-end encryption by default.
It is already possible to encrypt messages, but this option is not enabled by default. Meta doesn’t expect to do this until 2023 due to concerns about user security. With the current settings, the company can combat criminal activities. Images of, for example, child abuse can be traced.
With end-to-end encryption, messages can only be deciphered by the sender and receiver. If messages are intercepted, they are therefore unreadable for the ‘interceptor’. This makes it more difficult for authorities such as governments and police forces to stop criminal activities.
Davis says that Meta is looking for “effective solutions” to combat abuse. At the same time, the company wants to protect users’ private conversations. “As a company that connects billions of people around the world and has built leading-edge technology, we are committed to protecting people’s private communications and keeping people safe online,” Davis wrote in the article.
Meta is delaying the rollout of the default encryption “to strike the right balance” between privacy and security. The platform works with privacy and security experts and governments, among others, to build strong security measures into its plans. Davis writes that Meta believes “people should not choose between privacy and security.”
Several governments and child protection organizations have already criticized Meta’s intentions to enable end-to-end encryption by default for Facebook Messenger and Instagram. British Home Secretary Priti Patel called the plans “unacceptable” earlier this year.
In 2019, American, Australian and British authorities called on Facebook in an open letter not to roll out end-to-end encryption for the various messaging services. In the same year, children’s organizations also demanded that the security measure should not be introduced. They feared that the encryption would go unnoticed by the sexual abuse of children.
WhatsApp, another chat service from Meta, has had automatic end-to-end encryption since 2016. However, according to Davis, security forces have “more data than ever” to use in criminal investigations, including phone numbers, email addresses and location information.
She refers to Europol’s most recent annual survey of police and judicial authorities. In this, 85 per cent of the respondents indicated that this type of data is very important in investigations.
“As we roll out end-to-end encryption, we will use a combination of unencrypted data from our apps, account information, and user notifications to protect them in a privacy-friendly manner while supporting public safety efforts,” writes Davis.
In this way, Meta would currently already pass on important information from WhatsApp to child protection authorities.
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