Face­book tries out end-to end en­cryp­tion

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - MEDIA& MARKETING - AN­DREA PETER­SON

WASHINGTON: Face­book is tak­ing a big step to­ward keep­ing Mes­sen­ger users’ con­ver­sa­tions safe from pry­ing eyes: the com­pany is test­ing a new fea­ture it calls “se­cret con­ver­sa­tions”, which uses end- to- end en­cryp­tion to lock up mes­sages.

Us­ing end- to- end en­cryp­tion means only the sender and re­cip­i­ent of a mes­sage will able to un­lock and read it.

In a blog post yes­ter­day an­nounc­ing the test, Face­book high­lighted sen­si­tive top­ics like health and fi­nan­cial in­for­ma­tion as among the rea­sons users might want to use it.

End-to-end en­cryp­tion has seen a boom in pop­u­lar­ity in re­cent years as main­stream tech com­pa­nies have started in­te­grat­ing it into their prod­ucts amid height­ened cy­ber­se­cu­rity and sur­veil­lance fears.

But that boom has also raised con­cerns from some law en­force­ment of­fi­cials that it could stop them from be­ing able to ac­cess the com­mu­ni­ca­tions of crim­i­nals and ter­ror­ists even when in­ves­ti­ga­tors ob­tain a war­rant.

The Mes­sen­ger fea­ture will not be turned on by de­fault; users will have to choose to start a se­cret con­ver­sa­tion. In ad­di­tion to pro­vid­ing end-toend pro­tec­tions, the fea­ture will also al­low users to set a time limit for how long each mes­sage will re­main vis­i­ble. How­ever, se­cret con­ver­sa­tions cur­rently don’t sup­port some pop­u­lar fea­tures, like shar­ing GIFs.

Only a lim­ited num­ber of Mes­sen­ger users will be able to try out the fea­ture for now, but Face­book says it plans to make it more widely avail­able later this year.

Mes­sen­ger’s se­cret con­ver­sa­tions rely on tech­nol­ogy from Open Whis­per Sys­tems, which also makes the free end-to-end en­crypted mes­sag­ing and voice call app Sig­nal.

The com­pany is fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of Ap­ple, whose iMes­sage sys­tem has pro­tected users’ con­ver­sa­tions with end-to-end en­cryp­tion since 2011. – Washington Post

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