This week, Facebook finally finished rolling out its “Secret Conversations” feature to all 900 million Facebook Messenger users, allowing anyone using the tool to send encrypted messages that can’t be read by prying eyes — including the government or Facebook itself.
Before this week, Messenger was one of the last major chat platforms not to feature end-to-end encryption. The Facebook-owned messaging app WhatsApp began offering secret messaging in April, and Google and Apple both also offer similar services.
While this feature is certainly a breath of fresh air to privacy-concerned users, it is opt-in only, and must be implemented on a conversation-by-conversation basis. To turn it on, tap the toggle in the upper right of the “new conversation” screen and enable it, then select the recipient and write your message. You can also now send self-destructing messages similar to Snapchat. To do that, tap the stopwatch icon and select how long you want the message to remain in the recipient’s inbox after being read.
This tool is certainly a step forward for user privacy, but it’s vital to remember that it needs to be turned on for every Messenger conversation you want to be secret. It also doesn’t work for group chats, GIFs, videos, or payments. According to Tech Republic, it’s also pretty easy to bypass the encryption. Users can report any encrypted message if it seems to go against Facebook’s Community Standards, and the site will then decrypt it for review. “Secret Conversations” is a start, but the tool definitely has limitations for now.