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Facebook Messenger’s new security features should protect you from scammers

Published May 21st, 2020 10:11PM EDT
Facebook Messenger
Image: Jenny Kane/AP/Shutterstock

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  • New Facebook Messenger security features will improve protections for minors as well as adults when it comes to unwanted chat requests.
  • Facebook developed new safety tips powered by machine learning that will still work after the service gets its promised end-to-end encryption.
  • The new safety features will offer users tips on how to handle suspicious people contacting them over Messenger.
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

Facebook just launched Messenger Rooms, a video chatting feature that works just like Zoom, and you don’t even need a Facebook account to use it.

That’s not the only new trick coming to Messenger users, though, as Facebook on Thursday announced brand new security features meant to protect users against unwanted chat requests, whether they’re from predators targeting minors or scammers looking for new victims. The new features are powered by machine learning, and they will work even after Messenger gets end-to-end encryption.

Facebook pivoted to strong privacy features in recent years and promised that all of its communication apps will receive the same end-to-end encryption as WhatsApp. The idea behind the project is to allow all users of Facebook apps, including Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram, to talk to each other securely. It might take a while to get us there, but Facebook is getting ready for that future by rolling out additional safety measures for Messenger.

Facebook Messenger can detect when someone is trying to impersonate one of your contacts. Image source: Facebook

The features have been in testing on Android since March and will roll out to iPhone next week. The tools were developed “with machine learning that looks at behavioral signals like an adult sending a large amount of friend or message requests to people under 18,” Facebook explained. That way, the features will work with end-to-end encryption as well.

Safety notices will pop up in a chat and provide helpful tips to people who may be engaged in a conversation with a suspicious account. Users will be able to block or ignore someone “when something doesn’t seem right.”

The new feature “educates people under the age of 18 to be cautious when interacting with an adult they may not know and empowers them to take action before responding to a message.” Facebook says it’s working with experts to keep minors safe. Messenger already has protections in place for minors that can limit contact from adults they’re not connected to. Machine learning helps Facebook detect and disable accounts of adults who interact with children inappropriately.

Facebook Messenger detects a stranger telling a user they won money. Image source: Facebook

The new Messenger security tools should also help people avoid scams and imposters, like in the example above. “These accounts can be hard to identify at first, and the results can be costly,” Facebook says. “Our new safety notices also help educate people on ways to spot scams or imposters and help them take action to prevent a costly interaction.”

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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