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Facebook and Messenger to Use Encryption to Secure Every Message

Parent company Meta has stated that all Facebook and Messenger communications will be automatically encrypted. This was announced on December 6, on their Meta platform.

While encrypted messages have always been an option, they will now always be the default setting. Only the sender and recipient can read calls and messages that are encrypted end-to-end (E2EE).

Security and privacy

According to a post by Messenger’s head Loredana Crisan, “unless you choose to report a message to us,” nobody, not even Meta, can see what is sent or said since the system has switched to encryption.

The UK government and police are among the critics who argue that the switch to default encryption will make it more difficult to identify child sexual abuse on Messenger. After collaborating with Meta to address other internet evils, Home Secretary James Cleverly expressed his “deep disappointment” with the company’s choice.

“While we’ll continuing collaborating closely with Meta to protect kids online, we have to be honest and say that we believe this to be a major setback “, he said.

The decision by Meta to implement end-to-end encryption on Facebook Messenger is really disheartening.

“Today our role in protecting children from sexual abuse and exploitation just got harder,” he stated.

According to Meta, users will be able to identify when their chats are encrypted and upgraded because they will be asked to configure a recovery mechanism, which will allow them to recover their communications in the event that they misplace, add, or change a device.

Although apps like WhatsApp, Signal, and iMessage all use E2EE to preserve message privacy, technology has turned into a political battlefield. Supporters of the apps contend that technology safeguards people’s security and privacy, especially those of minors.

However, the government, children’s organisations, and law enforcement have been against E2EE’s expansion.

The recently passed Online Safety Act gives Ofcom new authority to compel tech companies to search encrypted messages for anything related to child abuse. According to their statements, WhatsApp and Signal would not accede to such requests.

However, there has been ongoing pressure on Meta to stop the expansion of E2EE in spite of those powers.

The BBC was informed in September, by then-Home Secretary Suella Braverman that “we are arresting in this country about 800 perpetrators a month, we are safeguarding about 1,200 children a month from this evil crime.” She asserted that the favoured channels for online child predators were Instagram direct messages and Facebook Messenger.

Meta defends encryption plans, says AI will detect abuse

However, Meta countered that it has invested years in creating strong security protocols to stop, identify, and deal with misuse while preserving internet safety.

“Instead of scanning private messages when E2EE is set as the default, we will also use a range of tools, including artificial intelligence, subject to applicable law, to proactively detect accounts engaged in malicious patterns of behaviour,” the company said.

King’s College London professor Martin Albrecht, who chairs the cryptography department, applauded the inclusion of what he described as a “standard safety feature.”

Privacy International, a campaign organisation, supported the tech company’s choice. The organisation told the BBC that encryption was “an essential defence, shielding journalists, human rights defenders, lawyers, artists, and marginalised groups from potential abuse by data-hungry companies and governments” .

But Susie Hargreaves, chief executive of the Internet Watch Foundation, which works to discover and delete child sexual abuse content online, said it was horrified that Meta had chosen to “prioritise the privacy of paedophiles over the safety of our children”.

She said that the platform was “effectively rolling out the welcome mat for paedophiles,” despite the fact that it has a proven track record of identifying a significant amount of child abuse content before it was posted on its services.

Users can edit messages and hide read receipts

Additionally, the company declared on Wednesday that it would be introducing several new features, such as the capability to edit messages for a maximum of fifteen minutes after they are delivered.

Additionally, users will be able to decide whether senders of messages receive “read receipts” informing them that their message has been received.

The corporation stated that it will take a few months for the adjustments to take effect.

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