In a piece of recent news, Meta announced that Instagram and Facebook Messenger will not have end-to-end encryption by default until 2023—in contrast to what Meta (formerly Facebook) said earlier in 2021. Although both Instagram and Facebook have the end-to-end encryption feature, it can not be availed on both platforms by default.
In 2019, Meta had announced its plans for offering a unified messaging system by keeping the privacy of users in mind. Although the first part of the plan is in action, the second part might take more time. As part of this plan, Facebook Messenger and Instagram were supposed to get end-to-end encryption by default. However, according to a report by The Guardian, the two apps are not getting the end-to-end encryption by default until 2023.
Delay in Default End-to-End Encryption
According to Antigonoe Davis, head of safety at Meta, the delays in Instagram and Facebook Messenger for getting end-to-end encryption by default are getting delayed about user safety. As end-to-end encryption enables only senders and recipients to see and access the message, Davis remarked that the company wants to ensure that end-to-end encryption does not interfere with user safety. Once it becomes available by default, Meta will use a combination of non-encrypted data across its apps to help keep the users safe.
According to a blog post by Meta, the end-to-end encryption feature for Facebook Messenger and Instagram was earlier planned for “sometime in 2022 at the earliest”. However, the company is now delaying this feature to 2023. Speaking of the delay, Antigone further quoted, “We are taking our time to get this right and we don’t plan to finish the global rollout of end-to-end encryption by default across all our messaging services until sometime in 2023.”
Reason Behind the Delays
The major reason behind the delay is due to user safety concerns as Meta aims to ensure that end-to-end encryption does not refrain the company from helping track criminal activities across its platforms. Under its latest encryption plans, Meta would be able to use non-encrypted data, account information, and reports from users to detect abuse on its platforms, a system already in place for WhatsApp. As the end-to-encryption feature enables messages to be only seen by the sender and recipient, this might make it difficult to detect any sort of abuse or criminal activity on the platform.
Ensuring Encryption on both Platforms
In 2020, Meta had merged Facebook Messenger and Instagram DMs as part of its plan to create a unified instant messaging platform that will incorporate WhatsApp as well in the future. Currently, while messages on Instagram DMs and Facebook Messenger can be end-to-end encrypted, the option can not be turned on by default.
Meta-owned Whatsapp including the Messenger video and voice calls has end-to-end encryption enabled by default. Meta currently plans to enable end-to-end encryption by default on Messenger as well as Instagram. The merging of the two platforms with Meta in 2020 provided Instagram and Messenger users with the ability to send messages across platforms. As a further part of this unification plan, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg had also announced encryption on both platforms.
Meta’s History with Privacy Concerns
Meta has had a long history of privacy concerns with its users. Several allegations against the company’s AI algorithm state that it leads people to extreme content that has been brought Meta under the spotlight. This has further resulted in placing Meta at the center of recent allegations that the social network puts profits before people. Various experts and users claim that Meta needs to work on its encryption plans for Instagram and Messenger by making it robust against any form of abuse that users might face on the platforms. Owing to rising concerns about user privacy and data protection, people across the globe are demanding stronger, more widespread encryption for messaging services such as Messenger and Instagram DMs. Currently, only WhatsApp is the sole Facebook service that provides end-to-end encryption. Although the recent renaming of the company to Meta is an attempt at rebranding the company’s brand voices, several experts remain skeptical about the safety and privacy implications of the metaverse. Despite Facebook’s venture into the Metaverse, there are several valid reasons for having serious privacy concerns regarding the company’s user policies—given its track record. With its venture into the Metaverse, CEO Mark Zuckerberg seeks to be trying to get out ahead of the previously hovering privacy concerns, promising multiple layers of privacy protection as the company pivots with its Meta rebrand.
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