Just a few years ago, end-to-end encryption was a nerdy niche: a tiny collection of obscure software let you encrypt communication so only your recipient could read it, but the vast majority left you no option to hide your words from hackers or eavesdroppers. This year, that balance shifted. And now, roughly 900 million more people are about to be invited into the crypto club.
On Friday, Facebook plans to roll out a beta version of a new feature it calls “secret conversations.” It’s encrypted messages, end-to-end, so that in theory no one—not a snoop on your local network, not an FBI agent with a warrant, not even Facebook itself—can intercept them. For now, the feature will be available only to a small percentage of users for testing; everyone with Facebook Messenger gets it later this summer or in early fall.
Though Facebook-owned WhatsApp rolled out full end-to-end encryption to its billion-plus users in April, this is the social media giant’s first step toward bringing a core part of its main product in line with the encryption trend. Apple has used a form of end-to-end encryption in iMessage for years; Viber added the protection to its 700 million users’ messages just weeks after WhatsApp, and Google announced in May that its new messaging app Allo would offer end-to-end encryption as an option.
It’s table stakes in the industry now for messaging apps to offer this to people. Messenger product manager Tony Leach
“It’s table stakes in the industry now for messaging apps to offer this to people,” says Messenger product manager Tony Leach. “We wanted to make sure we’re doing what we can to make messaging private and secure.”
Facebook’s secret conversations will use a protocol called Signal, created by the …