In May the Guardian reported that Facebook Messenger would get end-to-end encryption, but sources couldn’t reveal a launch date. As it turns out, the social media giant has today started rolling out the feature, which is branded as “Secret Conversations”.
Facebook claims that messages and calls on Messenger already benefit from strong security systems, but if you think that’s not enough, well, there is (or will be) an option to initiate a “secret conversation”. Maybe you want to send sensitive financial information to your accountant, or discuss an illness or health-related issue with friends and family (these are examples used by Facebook).
To enable encrypted end-to-end, one-to-one communications, Facebook Messenger is using the Signal Protocol developed by Open Whisper Systems.
As mentioned in the Guardian report, encrypted chat is optional. It’s important to note that encrypted conversations can only be read on one device you and your recipient own. Also, you can choose to set a timer to control the length of time each message you send remains visible within the conversation.
In a blog post confirming the rollout, Open Whisper Systems says they have verified the integration, and that it was done appropriately. Although this isn’t offered by default as in WhatsApp or Signal, it’s still a big step for Facebook Messenger.