Facebook Messenger may offer users an encrypted messaging mode this summer, according to sources, following behind WhatsApp, Viber and some other services in offering users a more secure messaging option. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard rumors of Messenger encryption plans, but is the first instance of some big details being offered. Among other things, the sources say this encryption feature will be opt-in.
According to a new report from The Guardian, a trio of sources have come forward saying Facebook will be giving its 900 million plus Messenger users the option to enable encryption. The reason the security feature will be opt-in, the sources say, is that it’ll mess up some of Facebook’s AI-based features when enabled…meaning users will soon have to make a choice between privacy and having access to everything Messenger offers.
Features like Facebook’s various Messenger ‘bots’ will be stunted if encryption is enabled because the bots depend on access to one’s messages. By encrypting one’s messages, Facebook will not have access to them, nor will its various machine learning technologies, as only the recipient can decode the chats.
Some have criticized decisions to make encryption opt-in rather than opt-out, arguing that many users don’t understand what encryption is and why they may want to use it, and may not even be aware that such a feature exists. Still, it leaves companies in a hard place, as in cases like this, opt-out encryption would leave many oblivious to the features Facebook wants to offer (eg, the bots).
The sources claim users will be able to turn on encryption for “each message,” but it’s not clear at this point how that will work, nor has Facebook confirmed such plans.