Facebook is beta testing its end-to-end encryption (E2EE) feature called “Secret Conversation” amongst a few selected users. What this means is people can now have secret conversations which will get deleted after a certain time, selected by the user. Other than this, these messages can only be read by the recipients intended and no one else not even the Facebook employees can access them. Telegram, another popular messaging application already offers E2EE for all its conversations. Secret Conversations will use Signal Protocol developed by Open Whispers System.
Whatsapp has already rolled out this feature in 2014 across all platforms which included images, videos, audio etc. By increasing the security levels on the visibility of all peer-to-peer conversation the users will now feel more comfortable and safe using the application. But what does this mean for the law enforcements and government leaders in matter of national or regional security? Many government officials argue that E2EE conversations can be used to conduct illegal and terrorist activities information for which cannot be obtained by law enforcements even in matter of extreme security. This is because the messages are transferred in the form of numbers instead of words so, even if devices are changed the user would need to resend the entire message to get it across as the application would not store and transfer the messages automatically. After Whatsapp and Telegram were used by terrorists to conduct their recent attacks in Paris, government officials are even more worried about how “safe” it is to keep the messages a secret for the users and upto what level the secrecy should be maintained.
Although, government officials may not benefit from such a feature being rolled out on the first social networking website with over 900 million users, who will find it extremely beneficial as they are now protected from cyber crimes, bullies and trolling. With the timer feature to be activated people need not worry about their messages being read by other if their phone is left unattended because the messages will self-destruct kind of like the popular peer-to-peer sharing application Snapchat. So, why is Facebook doing this after so long? Especially when its sister company Whatsapp did it so long ago. Simple, Facebook wants its user to make Messenger their primary messaging application. By raising its security levels Facebook is now unable to provide law enforcements encrypted data and chat threads even if the law enforcements have warrants against the said individual.
Google’s recently released instant messaging application ‘Allo’ raised a lot of debate regarding the issue that end-to-end encryption was not a default feature like on WhatsApp. The Google engineer faced a lot of criticism after he edited his initial blog post regarding E2EE encryption not being the default setting on the application. Currently, the application Allo only allows for manual selection of incognito mode rather than it being a default feature in itself from the beginning of the chat. Facebook is set to roll out its “Secret Conversation” feature on the Messenger application in September to the rest of the public. Till then we all wait in anticipation to see the full function of the particular feature.
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