Facebook plans to add end-to-end encryption to its popular Messenger app, the Guardian reports, citing sources familiar with the matter. The feature will be optional, they say, as it will limit the new machine learning features Facebook has built into the messaging app.
Facebook Messenger is currently used by more than 900 million people. Adding end-to-end encryption would be a major move, as this would mean that neither the authorities nor Facebook would be able to read those messages.
The Guardian notes the presence of two conflicting trends nowadays:
Consumers seem to be demanding that companies share less of their data with them – but also want companies to improve their services by integrating more of their personal data.
Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook have made advancements in building virtual assistants that analyze consumers’ text, photos, and other habits to make their lives easier. Google’s Allo app, for example (as highlighted by the Guardian), reads all your messages to suggest an appropriate reply.
The issue here is with machine learning: To achieve these goals, the data (your photos, messages, etc.) need to be routed through corporate servers, where they are analyzed so that an appropriate reply can be suggested.
That doesn’t work with encrypted messages, because only a message’s sender and recipient are able to decode it. That means Messenger’s new smart features introduced at the developer conference this April, “bots”, won’t have access to them. This could be a reason why Facebook will likely add encryption as an optional feature to Messenger, so users can see the trade-offs of end-to-end encryption.