Facebook Messenger will now offer end-to-end encryption

10 Jul 2016 | By Mansi Motwani
Facebook's 'secret messaging service'

A limited test group of users will get the opportunity to try out Facebook Messenger's end-to-end encryption feature.

"Secret conversations", a new feature that made it's debut on 8th July, 2016, is currently under trial by Facebook.

The encryption feature is built by the signal protocol that is developed by Open Whisper Systems. It is widely used by messaging apps.

In context: Facebook's 'secret messaging service'

BackgroudWhat is Open Whisper Systems?

Open Whisper Systems. also going by OWS, is a software group that was founded by Moxie Marlinspike in 2013.

It maintains an encrypted voice calling and instant messaging application called Signal.

It is a non-profit and thus obtains its funding from a combination of donations and grants.

All the services that it offers are published as free and open-source software.

E2EEEnd-to-end Encryption

End-to-end encryption is a system of communication that guarantees privacy in a manner where only the communicating users can read the messages.

It is a communication system that disables eavesdropping by telecom providers, internet providers, and even providers of the communication service.

No third party can decode the data that is being communicated or stored and any attempts at surveillance or tampering are futile.

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Apple and the FBI

In the wake of the San Bernardino shootings, Apple was ordered by a US court to comply with the FBI by creating a crack for the accused terrorist's iPhone. All Apple devices are end-to-end encrypted, which left the terrorist's iPhone inaccessible.

10 Jul 2016Facebook Messenger will now offer end-to-end encryption

How does it work?

Secret ConversationsHow does it work?

To start a secret conversation, tap on a friend's name at the top of the current message thread.

If you're a part of Facebook's test group, an option called "Secret Conversations" will be visible.

On choosing that option, a new conversation thread will appear, containing a notice at the top which informs the user that the chat is end-to-end encrypted.


Secret Conversations include a "timer" feature, enabling a user to erase messages after a certain time period has elapsed. Right next to the text field is a drop-down list of times (5 seconds-6 hours) that can be selected for the message to stay before expiring.
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HighlightsKey points of the "Secret Conversations" feature

The Secret Conversation mode will be available on iOS and Android, not on, Facebook chat or the desktop Messenger app.

End-to-end encryption in Messenger is not enabled by default, but is an option that can be chosen.

Available only for text messaging, the feature will not support videos or gifs.

The feature can be used only on a single device, ensuring even more privacy.

E2EE in other apps

iMessage on all of Apple's devices is end-to-end encrypted, Viber introduced the encryption few weeks after WhatsApp enabled default end-to-end encryption. In May 2016, Google announced that its messenger app Allo will offer end-to-end encryption as an option.