According to The Guardian, Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, does not intend to implement end-to-end encryption (E2EE) by default on Messenger and Instagram until 2023.
Antigone Davis, Meta’s head of safety, explains the delay to user safety concerns in a piece on The Telegraph. Because E2EE ensures that only the sender and receiver will see their discussions, Meta wants to make sure that this doesn’t interfere with the platform’s capacity to assist deter illegal conduct, according to Davis.
Davis writes that once E2EE is made available by default, the business will “use a combination of non-encrypted data across our applications, account information, and user reports” to help keep people secure, all while “assisting public safety initiatives.”
Zuckerberg had previously stated that the company’s core products, such as Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram, would evolve into a more private network, rather than the current digital equivalent of a town square, and that “private communications, end-to-end encryption” would be critical to achieving this vision. Other criteria emphasized by Zuckerberg at the time included “reduced permanency, safety, interoperability across all Facebook apps, and secure data storage.” However, he did not provide a timetable for when this end-to-end encryption will be available.
Last year, the company integrated Messenger and Instagram conversations as part of its efforts to build a single messaging system across all of its platforms. While communications exchanged over Messenger and Instagram can be E2EE, that option isn’t enabled by default — and probably won’t be until 2023. WhatsApp already has E2EE functionality by default.
Why is end-to-end encryption an issue?
End-to-end encryption ensures that no one other than the two people engaged can read or access the messages. When this is enabled by default, no one can read the message, not even Facebook, Meta, or Instagram. This is excellent for user privacy, but not so good for law enforcement or authorities, especially if the applications are used for illegal purposes. Governments warn that this effectively gives criminals a free pass, while Meta claims that they can keep consumers secure while keeping their chats confidential.