Meta has initiated the rollout of end-to-end encryption (E2EE) by default in Messenger for personal calls and one-to-one messages, marking a substantial privacy enhancement. Loredana Crisan, Meta’s Vice President of Messenger, stated that this update involves a comprehensive rebuild of the app, developed in collaboration with privacy and safety experts. While encrypted chats were initially introduced as an opt-in feature called “secret conversations” in 2016, the default E2EE in Messenger represents a major step toward securing the content of messages and calls from the sender’s device to the recipient’s.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who had outlined a “privacy-focused vision for social networking” in 2019, noted that this significant update follows years of redesigning the platform. Although E2EE for group messaging in Messenger is still undergoing testing, the default encryption for personal calls and one-to-one messages aligns with Meta’s commitment to prioritizing user privacy. The extra layer of security provided by E2EE ensures that the content of messages and calls remains protected throughout the communication process.
In August 2023, Meta announced plans to widely enable E2EE in Messenger by the year’s end, necessitating the re-architecture of the platform to prevent server processing or validation of messages. The company upgraded over 100 features to incorporate encryption, introducing a new encrypted storage system called Labyrinth to manage message history between devices. Users can set up a PIN as a recovery method, enabling them to restore messages if they lose, change, or add a device to their account. The Labyrinth protocol aims to store messages server-side while maintaining strong privacy, addressing challenges related to non-members and ensuring low operational overheads and high reliability. The move to default E2EE is expected to fuel discussions about the balance between user privacy and law enforcement’s ability to investigate criminal activities.