Facebook announced this week that it will begin rolling out a beta version of its “Secret Conversations” feature to a small number of Messenger users that aims to protect communications with end-to-end encryption.
Apple, WhatsApp and Google all feature similar encryption services for users, so it was high time Facebook caught up with the privacy trend.
“It’s table stakes in the industry now for messaging apps to offer this to people,” Facebook Messenger product manager Tony Leach told WIRED. “We wanted to make sure we’re doing what we can to make messaging private and secure.”
However, it’s important to note that Facebook is not providing encryption as a default setting to users. In other words, you will need to actively seek it out to opt in. As WIRED points out, Google’s soon-to-be-released Allo messaging app will also provide encryption as an opt-in service. Both Facebook and Google rely heavily on mining your data, so it makes sense that these companies won’t give you an automatic way to avoid providing it. Facebook’s secret conversations will also only work from a single device, so you’ll need to pick one.
Even thought the service is limited, it could still have a huge positive impact for Messenger users. Just giving people the choice to protect themselves from unwanted surveillance is a big step forward for Facebook.