Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Messenger, has announced a significant update to its messaging platforms: all chats and calls will now be automatically encrypted end-to-end (E2EE). This means that only the sender and recipient can read the messages, enhancing user privacy. Previously, users had the option to opt into E2EE, but moving forward, it will be the standard setting.
The decision has been met with criticism from various quarters, including the UK government and law enforcement agencies. They argue that default encryption could hinder efforts to detect and prevent child sexual abuse on the platform. Home Secretary James Cleverly expressed his disappointment, emphasizing the challenges this move poses for online child safety. Despite these concerns, Meta has been working with experts to ensure that privacy and safety measures are balanced.
Meta’s move aligns with other tech giants like Apple, Signal, and WhatsApp, which already protect messages with E2EE. The company has developed tools, including artificial intelligence, to detect malicious behavior without scanning private messages, ensuring robust safety measures. The shift to default encryption is part of a broader debate on privacy and security, with law enforcement and children’s charities voicing opposition to the expansion of E2EE.
In addition to encryption, Meta is introducing new features to enhance the user experience. These include the ability to edit messages shortly after sending them and controlling read receipts. These changes, rolling out over the coming months, reflect the company’s commitment to user privacy while also providing practical messaging tools.