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Facebook Messenger finally got default end-to-end encryption – here’s how to tell if you have it

Published Dec 7th, 2023 6:36PM EST
Facebook Messenger chats have end-to-end encryption by default.
Image: Meta

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Meta added end-to-end encryption for one-on-one chats in 2016. End-to-end encryption wasn’t enabled by default, like in iMessage, WhatsApp, and Signal, but now, Meta is finally ready to deliver on its promise of default end-to-end encryption for Facebook Messenger.

It’s not all good news, as the feature might take months to roll out to everyone. But you’ll know when it happens, as Meta will prompt you to set a recovery mode for the encrypted chats. Also, the feature only works for personal messages. Group chats don’t have the same protections just yet.

How to tell whether chats are encrypted

Meta announced the development in a blog post that also details several other notable upgrades that Facebook Messenger is about to get.

The company says that Facebook Messenger has strong end-to-end encryption built on the Signal Protocol and Meta’s Labyrinth Protocol. Why did it take so long to arrive? Well, Meta apparently wanted to get it right:

Since 2016, Messenger has had the option for people to turn on end-to-end encryption, but we’re now changing private chats and calls across Messenger to be end-to-end encrypted by default. This has taken years to deliver because we’ve taken our time to get this right. Our engineers, cryptographers, designers, policy experts, and product managers have worked tirelessly to rebuild Messenger features from the ground up.

Once chats get encrypted, nobody will be able to access them except the sender and the recipient. Not even Meta. Just like the content of other encrypted chat apps is hidden from everyone except for the parties involved in the chat.

Meta also said that rolling out default end-to-end encryption to an installed base of over a billion users will take a number of months. You’ll know when you get encryption because Meta will issue a prompt to set up a Facebook Messenger recovery method, like a password or a PIN. That will be the only way to recover your messages when changing devices.

You can edit messages in Facebook Messenger.
You can edit messages in Facebook Messenger. Image source: Meta

Other new Facebook Messenger features

The surprising end-to-end encryption announcement explains why Meta just discontinued cross-chat app support for Facebook Messenger and Instagram. Of course, the two apps can’t talk to each other if they’re not on the same page when it comes to encryption.

On that note, Instagram should get similarly strong encryption in the future. But that doesn’t mean that cross-app chat support will ever happen again.

Encrypted Facebook Messenger chats will support existing features, like themes and custom reactions. On top of that, Meta rolled out new features for the chat app.

Facebook Messenger will let you edit messages. You have 15 minutes to do it after sending one.

Disappearing messages will be available in end-to-end encrypted Facebook Messenger chats.
Disappearing messages will be available in end-to-end encrypted Facebook Messenger chats. Image source: Meta

Furthermore, disappearing messages will now last 24 hours after being sent. Meta says it also improved the user interface so people can easily tell when disappearing chats are turned on. Disappearing messages will only be available for end-to-end encrypted chats.

Meta also says that it improved its read receipts controls to let users decide if they want to let other people see they’ve read the messages.

Finally, Facebook Messenger will support higher-quality photo and video sharing, as well as new layouts and support for replies and reactions.

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.

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