Facebook Instant Messages Get More Secure

John Lister's picture

Facebook is reportedly planning to offer encryption on its messaging tools, which means that neither Facebook, nor governments could read the contents. It's also working on an option to integrate standard text messaging into its Messenger app.

The idea is to offer end-to-end encryption, meaning that if a message is intercepted at any point between leaving the sender's device and arriving at the recipient's device, it would be unreadable.

As well as being a selling point to users who worry about snooping, the tool could also mean Facebook would have a simple answer if law enforcement officials requested access to a suspect's message - or if a court ordered it to intercept a message. The system would be set up in such a way that Facebook literally couldn't do so even if it wanted to.

Encryption Would Be Off By Default

However, it appears Facebook will make the encryption an opt-in feature rather than enabling it by default. That's likely because it is also working on features that are sold as making life easier for users, but require the messages to be routed via Facebook's computer systems to be analyzed. (Source: theguardian.com)

Possible examples include a quick reply function, similar to that now offered on Google's Inbox email tool, which analyzes a user's messages and automatically generates two or three of the most likely replies. The user can then click or tap on these replies to send them without needing to type a reply in full.

SMS Added To Facebook Messenger

The change comes as Facebook continues to try to make its Messenger app a "one-stop" communications tool, particularly on mobile devices. It already allows users to talk to one another in a voice or video chat, something that's a clear challenge to services such as Skype.

Now Facebook is testing a setup for mobile phones that would mean a user could have their SMS text messages automatically appear in their Facebook Messenger app and be able to write replies. The replies would still be sent as a text message and thus count towards monthly use caps with a cellphone provider, rather than being sent over the Internet and counting towards data caps. (Source: geekwire.com)

What's Your Opinion?

Do you use Facebook Messenger regularly? Would end-to-end encryption make any difference to you? Would you find it useful to have SMS text messages in your Messenger inbox?

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Dennis Faas's picture

If the Facebook Messenger app had the capability of sending SMS text messages through wifi, that would be a huge win. Right now too many providers put restrictions on how many SMS messages you are allowed to send - unless you opt into a more pricier data plan which includes unlimited SMS texting. Personally, I have been using the same cell plan (without data) since 2007 and am only allowed to send 50 text messages a month. There are third party apps that will allow me to send SMS through wifi, but they are usually riddled with ads making it almost impossible to use.

matt_2058's picture

I don't use Facebook. I like the idea of encryption just because entities are so nosy and it's none of their business, from a smartphone app to the data collectors to the government.

By having the encryption, Facebook is getting itself out of a tight spot. They've removed themselves from the equation when it comes to complying with LE's search for whatever and maintaining the users' privacy. There's probably a catch somewhere.