If you're someone who uses Facebook Messenger to keep your best friend up-to-date with your life's most important secrets or if you use the app to "save" important and sensitive files by sending them to yourself, you might want to reconsider.
A new article on Forbes written by Zak Doffman reminds avid users that the free messaging app is actually lacking an important security feature, one that reportedly won't be added until 2022 at the earliest: end-to-end encryption.
Why is end-to-end encryption important?
End-to-end encryption is a system that allows messages to be read only by the sender and its intended receiver. Internet service providers and even the platforms used to send these messages won't be able to access the content of the message.
Because Messenger currently does not support end-to-end encryption by default, Doffman points out that the app and even third parties can access the contents of the messages being sent using the platform. On a similar strand, the recently popular platform Notion also does not have this type of encryption.
Will Messenger ever implement end-to-end encryption?
Yes, Facebook does have plans of adding in this important security feature to Messenger and all the other platforms it owns (currently, only WhatsApp is known to be end-to-end encrypted). The implementation of end-to-end encryption for Messenger, however, might not happen until 2022 or later.
According to a 2020 report by WIRED, Facebook engineers say this feature is a challenging task to take on because they would have to rebuild Messenger's existing structure, which would take years to fully accomplish. They also point out an important difference between WhatsApp and Messenger and why it was relatively easier to add end-to-end encryption to the former: WhatsApp does not support multiple devices and has no need to backup messages on a server, while Messenger does.
By default, Messenger isn't end-to-end encrypted, but it does carry the feature. The app's Secret Conversations feature actually allows users to send end-to-end encrypted messages, but you'd have to manually enable this feature if you want to use it to send a friend an end-to-end encrypted message.
What is the Secret Conversations feature on Messenger?
The Secret Conversation feature allows a user to start a conversation on the app that is "end-to-end encrypted and intended just for you and the person you’re talking to." To start a secret conversation on Messenger, simply open the app, start a New Message, click Secret, and choose a recipient among your friends list. You may also set a timer for your message so that it disappears from the conversation after a set timeframe. Users, however, cannot automatically activate this feature for all messages; you'd have to manually use this feature every single time you want to send a Facebook Friend a secret message. Secret Conversation is only available on the mobile app on iOS and Android devices. They will not appear on Facebook chat or messenger.com.