Meta is delaying plans to roll out end-to-end encryption (E2EE) by default on Messenger and Instagram by a year. The company’s head of safety Antigone Davis has confirmed that E2EE will not be enabled by default across all its messaging services until sometime in 2023. In a blog post in April this year, Meta (then known as Facebook) had said that it plans to make messaging on Messenger and Instagram fully end-to-end encrypted in 2022. WhatsApp, which is also now a Meta brand, already supports E2EE by default.
Messenger also does support end-to-end encrypted messaging, including voice and video calls. However, the feature is not available by default. Meaning, it doesn’t automatically work when you send a message or make a call. You have to manually opt for E2EE before sending reaching out to someone on Messenger.
Instagram also offers end-to-end encrypted messaging to some users but it’s not on by default here as well. This is not the case with WhatsApp though. All messages as well as voice and video calls on WhatsApp are end-to-end encrypted by default. You can’t even turn it off.
Meta wanted to change that next year. But law enforcement agencies, governments, and other public safety institutions raised concerns that E2EE could give rise to criminal activities. Since no one but only the sender and the recipient can see the messages in an end-to-end encrypted conversation, this makes it difficult to track down unlawful activities. Particularly, authorities are concerned about child safety. They fear that E2EE would enable undetected circulation of abusive content.
Meta delays default end-to-end encryption for Messenger and Instagram amid pubic safety concerns
Meta is now looking to address those concerns and delaying its E2EE plans for Messengers and Instagram until 2023. The company says once it rolls out E2EE, it 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.”
“This kind of work already enables us to make vital reports to child safety authorities from WhatsApp,” Davis writes in a post in The Telegraph (via The Guardian). He says that the company will be able to provide critical information to the authorities, even from services that are end-to-end encrypted. “While no systems are perfect […] we can continue to stop criminals and support law enforcement.”
It will be interesting to see how authorities respond to this update from Meta on its E2EE plans. We will keep you posted.