When Facebook first announced that it would begin end-to-end encryption for all Messenger and WhatsApp communications, it seemed like a victory for user privacy. After all, this technology protects private messages from all prying eyes — including hackers, law enforcement and even Facebook itself. However, the feature almost instantly caused unease for officials who feared that Facebook could become a safe harbor for child predators and other criminals. And those fears are certain to intensify after reports this week that Facebook is also exploring encryption for both audio and video communications.
Facebook’s turn toward encryption last spring was abrupt, and came on the heels of a string of data and privacy controversies. The company’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg laid out a vision for the future of Facebook that placed an emphasis on private messaging and protecting users’ info.
“People expect their private communications to be secure and to only be seen by the people they’ve sent them to — not hackers, criminals, over-reaching governments, or even the people operating the services they’re using,” Zuckerberg said at the time.
However, as with virtually everything Facebook does, there could be major downsides to offering this kind of blanket protection. Bad actors are on Facebook, too, and they’re all too willing to exploit its weaknesses. As usual, the social media giant has found itself in a no-win situation.
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