Facebook is planning on offering end-to-end encryption within its Messenger app.
The idea is it’ll prevent both Facebook and authorities from reading users’ messages sent via the app, which on iOS is a standalone application. The move is designed to address user fears over privacy and who may be reading private messages and follows Apple’s recent standoff with the FBI over the encrypted San Bernadino shooter’s iPhone. Apple received high levels of support from both the public and other technology companies showing a shifting tide in the approach to privacy.
The news comes via The Guardian, which cites three people close to the project and states businesses are now looking into encryption options in users whose priorities have changed in a “post-Edward Snowden era.”
But users won’t be forced into encryption as it could negatively affect the progress of Facebook’s other interests. It’s believed the encryption will be “opt-in,” meaning users will have to specifically select the encryption option. This allows Facebook to continue pursuing its Artificial Intelligence and bot products.
Facebook announced at its F8 Conference back in April that it would introduce ‘bots’ to Messenger, which meant businesses could now create chat bots to help users with frequently asked questions and other simple customer service offerings.
However, for effective encryption messages need to only be accessed or decoded by the individuals involved and never travel through company servers. Of course, in order for Facebook’s potential AI product or bots to process information that’s exactly what needs to happen.
For users, it’s a trade-off that they may or may not be concerned with. Access to bots? Or reassurance your messages aren’t being read? It’ll be up to the individual user, but considering Apple puts such an emphasis on encryption and privacy, it’s good to see the developer of one of the App Store’s most popular apps is also potentially planning to offer more privacy options.
Messenger encryption would follow Whatsapp (also owned by Facebook) which recently added full end-to-end encryption.
As for its status, including whether this encryption option will come to fruition and when it might be available, Facebook told The Guardian: “We don’t comment on rumor or speculation.”