3 min read

Christmas came early. Messenger gets end-to-end encryption

The encryption campaign has been going on for over a decade. Now, Facebook is rolling out default end-to-end encryption on its Messenger app.

A major win for privacy rights

On Wednesday, Meta announced that messages and calls on its Messenger app will now be end-to-end encrypted by default! Until now, encryption had been an optional feature enabled by individual users.

Text graphic reading "Messenger Now Encrypted" with confetti

End-to-end encryption guarantees that private messages can only be read by the sender and the recipient. When end-to-end is used properly, it’s technologically impossible for social media companies, law enforcement, and others to snoop on your private communication. (I learned cryptography basics from Chapter 10 of Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother when I was 12 or 13. You can download the book here.)

Encryption is an important safety feature for everyone. Without it, you can never be sure your messages are safe from hackers, dragnet data requests and individual searches. US law enforcement has shown it can’t be trusted with surveillance tools—it’s repeatedly abused its power to target Black and Muslim Americans under the guise of “counterterrorism.”

Since the fall of Roe v. Wade, we’ve been worried about how private messages could be used to incriminate people seeking abortion care. So, with some other groups we launched Make DMs Safe, a campaign calling on all the major platforms to make end-to-end encryption a private messaging default. The Meta news is a major win for a decade-plus long fight for message privacy. WOO!

@fightfortheftrMeta launched default end-to-end encryption for Facebook Messenger. It's hard to conceptualize how big of a deal this is, and how many people will be safer because of it. This is a victory years in the making and is because of relentless pressure from abortion, LGBTQ+, racial justice, immigrant rights, and digital advocacy organizations and thousands and thousands of individuals! #endtoendencryption #MakeDMsSafe

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The rollout will take a while

Meta says the rollout could take a few months; there’s a short onboarding process, so you’ll know when your time has come. They’re using the Signal Protocol and have created a pretty cool encrypted storage system called Labyrinth. Here’s a Wired article covering some of the technical details.

What’s the status of other services?

Check out our scorecard on Make DMs Safe. Right now, Slack, Twitter, and Discord are the largest services we’re tracking that don’t offer all users end-to-end encryption. We’ve been pressuring Slack on this front online and in person.