Meta Boosts Privacy with Default Encryption on Messenger


  • The personal calls and chats of every Messenger user will be encrypted by default, representing a major privacy update that makes the service more similar to its sibling WhatsApp.
  • Since 2016, Messenger users could choose, or opt-in, to safeguarding their chats via a process referred to as end-to-end encryption, which scrambles peoples’ communications so that third-parties can’t eavesdrop and access the data.
  • In 2019, Zuckerberg said the social networking company would bring encryption technology to all private communications in its family of apps, underscoring a major privacy push that the executive attributed to changing consumer habits in which people “want to connect privately in the digital equivalent of the living room.”

In a significant move toward enhanced privacy, Meta announced on Wednesday evening that the personal calls and chats of all Messenger users will now be encrypted by default. This update aligns Messenger more closely with its sibling app, WhatsApp.

Loredana Crisan, the head of Messenger, emphasized the impact of encryption technology, stating, "Nobody, including Meta, can see what’s sent or said, unless you choose to report a message to us." This means that user communications will be secure and private.

The encryption implementation, inspired by cryptographic principles, includes methods developed in-house by Meta and is influenced by the popular Signal encrypted messaging app. Crisan mentioned that the encryption process for all Messenger chats will take an unspecified amount of time.

While Messenger users have had the option to enable end-to-end encryption since 2016, the latest update makes it the default setting. End-to-end encryption scrambles communications, preventing third parties from eavesdropping and accessing data. Although WhatsApp also employs end-to-end encryption, Signal has been recognized by privacy advocates as a more secure option due to its minimal data collection practices.

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg praised the achievement in a Facebook post, noting, "After years of work rebuilding Messenger, we’ve updated the app with default end-to-end encryption for all personal calls and messages."

This move aligns with Zuckerberg's 2019 commitment to bring encryption technology to all private communications within Meta's family of apps. The push for enhanced privacy was driven by changing consumer habits and a desire for more secure and private digital interactions.

In recent years, Meta has introduced several privacy-related updates, including end-to-end encryption for some Instagram users and a test in 2022 allowing Messenger users to back up their encrypted conversations.

However, the latest encryption announcement by Meta is expected to fuel an ongoing debate on privacy versus law enforcement's investigative capabilities. Similar debates have arisen, such as the 2016 Apple-FBI case, where Apple resisted creating software to unlock iPhones involved in a criminal investigation.

Notably, WhatsApp and Signal leaders have warned that their services may cease in the United Kingdom if the government enacts laws that weaken encryption. The U.K. government argues that Meta's encryption push could hinder efforts to detect online child abuse activities. This announcement sets the stage for continued discussions on the delicate balance between privacy and law enforcement needs.