In this day and age of privacy invasion–whether committed by hackers or by our own governments–end-to-end encryption in a messaging platform is highly sought after. It has the power to win over long-time devotees to a competing app, for example, as WhatsApp discovered when they unveiled their e-to-e offering. Other platforms have followed suit, and have even made this sender/recipient-only encryption par for the course, meaning it’s a default feature without any kind of hoop-jumping on the part of the user.
Which is why Facebook’s new end-to-end offer is so confusing. Not only does the user have to engage the encryption every single time he sends a message–meaning there’s no setting that can just automatically afford the user this level of security–but only one device in the Facebook user’s account can be encrypted for this kind of purpose. There’s no syncing your messages with encryption engaged, that is.
Why would two of the biggest names in tech–Facebook and the other company to shun this encryption, Google–be willing to lose out on the user loyalty that e-to-e could stand to offer? Perhaps because both Facebook and Google are in the business of gathering their customers’ information, storing it, using it, and even selling it. However, don’t think they’re all bad: the method by which Facebook’s new Secret Messages (yes, it’s actually called that) will function means your messages cannot be accessed by the company and therefore cannot be turned over to the government, even with a warrant or court order. How very Apple of them.
Secret Messages will be powered by a mainstay of encrypted communication tech, Open Whisper Systems, who has publicly stated its approval for Facebook’s efforts, even while admitting it’s less than thrilled with the multi-step effort users have to expend rather than making encryption the default setting for every user.