Facebook Delays End-to-End Encryption Plans

John Lister's picture

Facebook and Instagram will not strengthen the encryption on their messaging until 2023, a year later than planned. The delay has been linked to complaints that the encryption could help abusers of children.

At the moment, both service messages are encrypted between the sender and the company's servers and then from the company's servers to the recipient. That means anyone who intercepts the message in transit can't practically read it, but the company itself can.

Although the companies say they do not access the messages normally, they may do so in response to a court order, law enforcement warrant or similar request. It's also possible somebody (either a hacker or rogue employee) could access the message through a security breach.

Indecent Images Tracked

The plan is to shift to the stronger end-to-end encryption, already used by WhatsApp (a sister company of Facebook and Instagram in the newly-named Meta group). That means the message is encrypted at all stages between the sender and recipient. As a result, the company concerned cannot access the message even if it wants to or is ordered to by a court.

The delay appears to have been prompted at least in part by a freedom of information request in the United Kingdom where police revealed that around half of all indecent images of children reported to police were in messages sent through apps owned by Meta.

Only a small proportion were on WhatsApp, leading to child protection groups saying encryption would make it much harder for police to find the images and track down offenders. They say that could also make it easier for abusers to groom children. (Source: bbc.co.uk)

Security Vs Privacy

Meta says the delay is to give the company time to find the right technical solution to balancing the need to combat online abuse with the need to protect user privacy. (Source: xda-developers.com)

It says it already takes extra measures such as looking for suspicious behavior such as people sending messages in bulk to people they don't know or creating multiple profiles. It also blocks adults from messaging users aged under 18 unless they already have an online connection.

What's Your Opinion?

Is Facebook right to delay the move? Is end-to-end encryption the right option for messaging services? Can tech companies ever balance security and privacy?

Rate this article: 
Average: 4.6 (5 votes)


Unrecognised's picture

I am strongly opposed to this 'decision'. Law breakers have always exploited untraceable communication channels as best they could. That doesn't mean that all along until now, everybody should have had their telephone calls recorded by telcos or their snailmail opened and photocopied just in case authorities might want to chase up some baddies.

People want proper privacy, and have a human right to it.

Those people arcing up about privacy being too potentially extant are naïve to imagine that they're in no danger of persecution for sedition, should they not agree with the powers that be. Now more than ever, we have to push for our rights to freedom of expression and privacy.

Then again, yet more reason to leave all the naïve and the downright stupid to the unmercies of Effbook, and slip across to Signal or similar. Effbook got up my nose from the outset, with their 'come hither and view my goodies!' email links that led only to a rego page- I saw what they were up to-, and I have steered well clear of them ever since except for one brief moment of curiosity that led to no increase in happiness or well-being whatsoever, so there's nothing to lose by using a different social medium. All in my acquaintance know I provide high (OK that's a subjective and perhaps somewhat biased rating) quality real time communication with zero poser/stalker factor, so free as a bird.

Dump them, people! You're letting them own you!

PS as for the claim they 'just want the world to be more open and connected', well, notably while they're enabling processes and tech that are designed to put the populace in a panopticon, those running Effbook enjoy quite good personal privacy themselves.