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Facebook Messenger finally has a way to keep your messages secret

Published Oct 5th, 2016 9:46PM EDT

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Facebook promised it’ll offer Messenger users end-to-end encryption, and the company finally rolled out the feature to all its users. However, Messenger isn’t end-to-end encrypted by default, meaning you have to manually activate it for each conversation., which can be a hassle.

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Called Secret Conversations, the end-to-end encryption chats are now available to Messenger’s more than 900 million users, Facebook told Wired.

“Your messages are already secure, but Secret Conversations are encrypted from one device to another,” the iPhone or Android app will tell you. What that means is that your chats are, were, will be encrypted while in transit — that’s the “already secure” part — so they can’t be hacked. But Secret Conversations are the only ones that are also encrypted at each end, including your device and Facebook’s server. That means nobody can snoop on your protected chats.

To enable the feature, you have to press the New Message button in the top right corner, then select Secret, and then choose a contact. Alternatively, you can tap a contact and chose Secret Conversation from the list of options.

To work, both devices engaged in chat have to be updated to the latest iPhone or Android version of Facebook Messenger. Encrypted chats will only appear on the devices they were initiated on. To tell them apart from regular chats, Facebook is using a black background for text instead of blue and a tiny black lock over the contact’s picture.

Secret Conversations also have a handy Sanpchat-like feature, a message auto-destruct mechanism that lets you put a timer on encrypted messages.

The actual encryption technology used to secure chats is the same as the one that protects WhatsApp and Signal chats. The company that created the encryption system also makes Signal app.

However, unlike these apps, Facebook Messenger will probably never be encrypted by default. Just like Google, Facebook is looking to monetize chats with the help of AI-powered bots that need to access the data in a chat. End-to-end encryption would prevent that.

If you still can’t find the Secret Conversation option on your iPhone or Android handset, then you probably need to get the latest Messenger update.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.