Facebook’s Messenger service is not yet end-to-end encrypted by default, despite the bold promises CEO Mark Zuckerberg made last March. While the move would give Facebook Messenger’s one billion users access to significantly more secure communications, it isn’t going to happen any time soon, according to Wired.
The reason for this is surprising: It’s not because Facebook needs to drastically change its business model, or due to interference from law enforcement who have their eyes on encryption. It’s actually because of the massive technical challenge involved.
Due to the significant issues in adding the technology to an existing system, end-to-end encryption on Facebook Messenger could be years away, a Facebook software engineer speaking at the Real World Crypto conference in New York has admitted.
“While we have made progress in the planning, it turns out that adding end-to-end encryption to an existing system is incredibly challenging and involves fundamentally rethinking almost everything,” Facebook’s Jon Millican said.
Currently end-to-end encryption for Facebook Messenger is available, but only if you use its Secret Conversations Mode.
A reason to switch
Facebook-owned WhatsApp enabled end-to-end encryption for its billion users in 2016. But last year, it emerged that Facebook Messenger is to be integrated with WhatsApp and Instagram under a single underlying messaging platform or protocol.
It’s not clear what this latest Facebook admission means for the integration plans, but the social network has also recently been criticized for hiring contractors to listen to people’s private conversations.
Facebook has also been the subject of multiple breaches and data scandals. Meanwhile, in November, the social network came under fire for testing a scary facial recognition app on its employees and their friends.
With many people already considering deleting their Facebook accounts, it’s a good idea to take a look at secure services you can use to chat to friends and contacts that use end-to-end encryption by default.
Here are three alternatives to Facebook Messenger:
Signal is well-known and loved among the security community, and it’s a great way to chat to your friends and contacts securely. Among its attributes, Signal provides end-to-end encryption using its own unique protocol.
It’s also open source, which makes it more secure because a large number of skilled people are able to constantly test and fix its code. Signal offers features such as self-destructing messages and the ability to hide messages appearing on the lock screen to hide them from prying eyes.
Beloved of many security-conscious people, Wickr was actually one of the first messaging apps to adopt end-to-end encryption. It boasts some cool features such as the ability to ensure deleted files are completely unrecoverable.
With the option to enable conference and group calling on the professional version, Wickr Pro, it’s especially suitable for enterprise users. In addition, Wickr is open source, meaning it’s easy for the community to get involved in fixing security issues and bugs.
Viber is quite a popular secure messaging app, with about 260 million monthly active users. As well as offering end-to-end encryption, it color codes your chats to show you how secure they are. But one thing you should note: only one to one chats are end-to-end encrypted, so group conversations are not as secure.
What to Do
I get it: As well as switching to another service yourself, you have to convince your friends it’s the best one for them too.
Personally, I don’t use Facebook Messenger anymore, and I have kept WhatsApp for now to speak to friends and contacts who use the service. But I also use Signal to chat securely to people who are open to downloading it.
The app is free, so why don’t you install it on your smartphone and try it out?
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