Today, Facebook Messenger announced the rollout of in-app, end-to-end encrypted group chats and calls.
Attempting to rival Snapchat, Messenger is adding a security feature in the form of an alert when someone screenshots a message. GIFs, stickers, and reactions will also be added to encrypted chats.
End-to-end encryption helps protect a user's conversations by ensuring that only the user and the intended recipient(s) can access the data or messages being sent. Technically, hackers and third parties are shut out from any of the encrypted information.
Even before last August, when Messenger began planning E2EE group chats and calls, governments expressed concerns about the ability of law enforcement to investigate crimes and detect illegal activity conducted through Facebook -- most notably, Attorney General William Barr's plea to Mark Zuckerberg over user safety in October, 2019.
Meta, Messenger's parent company, has defended its use of this technology by pointing to its use in other apps such as WhatsApp.
Now, E2EE chats are available across the globe for users to turn on in their private Messenger conversations, with several additional updates.
Users will now receive notifications when Messenger detects someone takes a screenshot of a disappearing message (this is similar to “vanish mode,” which causes messages to fade after they are seen). Screenshots of private conversation threads cancels out the point of E2EE –– Messenger says they will be rolling this notification feature out over the next few weeks.
Popular features like GIFs, stickers, and reactions -- along with support for replies to a specific thread, typing indications, and forwarding options -- will be added to E2EE chats. More important, however, is the inclusion of verified badges, as users will now be able to identify authentic accounts when chatting.
Users will also now be able to edit videos from their galleries directly in the app. This allows users to add a personal touch, as they might do in Snapchat, before sending anything off to their friends or family.
The rollout, according to Meta, is ongoing across all web and mobile platforms.