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Meta to launch Facebook and Instagram encrypted messaging feature ‘sometime in 2023’
Meta, formerly Facebook, has been pitching an update to the messaging functions of Facebook and Instagram for years that would add end-to-end encryption (E2EE). However, the social media giant has now announced its launch is not taking place anytime before 2023.
Antigone Davis, Meta’s Global Head of Safety, announced the new release timeline on Sunday Telegraph, suggesting the decision follows the “ongoing debate” on how E2EE could be implemented without impeding the law enforcement’s crackdown on online abuse.
Exactly how Meta is going to approach the E2EE implementation on Facebook and Instagram messages is still unclear. But Davis provided an overview, saying, “As we roll out end-to-end encryption we will use a combination of non-encrypted data across our apps, account information and reports from users to keep them safe in a privacy-protected way while assisting public safety efforts.” Davis added that this is the same model Meta has been using on WhatsApp, where E2EE has long been in place while the company has been able to “make vital reports to child safety authorities.”
The use of E2EE on Facebook Messenger and Instagram Direct Messages was first reported in 2019. In recent years, Facebook has introduced cross-messaging app features across social networks and mobile apps it owns. E2EE would be an important feature to make the plan work since it is a foundational feature of WhatsApp, a messaging app that is currently used by more than two billion people worldwide.
Former U.S. Attorney General William Barr, former acting U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel and Australia’s then-Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton (currently Minister for Defence) have co-signed an open letter in response to Facebook’s planned E2EE across apps. One of their demands was that Facebook and tech companies should “enable law enforcement to obtain lawful access to content in a readable and usable format” amid plans of introducing wider privacy and encryption features.
Meta doubled down on its plans of expanding the use of E2EE outside WhatsApp this year. The company introduced E2EE for Messenger voice and video calls, along with the confirmation that it plans on adding the same security feature to Messenger group chats and calls, along with an opt-in E2EE for Instagram DMs.