It feels like we’ve been waiting forever for Meta to encrypt all messages on Messenger and Instagram. And it looks like we’ll be waiting a lot longer. The company has delayed the move until 2023.
“We’re taking our time to get this right and we don’t plan to finish the global rollout of end-to-end encryption by default across all our messaging services until sometime in 2023… As a company that connects billions of people around the world and has built industry-leading technology, we’re determined to protect people’s private communications and keep people safe online.”
The move to encrypt all messages was announced almost two years ago, in January 2019. If the 2023 date proves accurate, it will have been at least four years between announcement and delivery of a feature that helps keep users protected from snooping, allowing them to speak more freely. This is especially important as governments increasingly turn to social media to keep tabs on their populations and authoritarian regimes are on the rise.
But Meta has faced a barrage of complications. These are technical (unifying the messaging tech its different apps use), business-related (how do you keep tracking users’ interests for advertising if you increasingly can’t track what they’re talking about?), political (many politicians and law enforcers hate the idea of encrypted messages restricting surveillance opportunities and have called on Meta to cancel the move), and safety-related (being able to keep an eye on what’s going on inside online chats helps keep kids safe).
This interesting Twitter thread
expands on the difficulties Meta faces in moving to encrypted messaging. Given the challenges of trading one set of safety concerns against another, I’d suggest it’s nowhere near a certainty that the move will ever actually go ahead.