It will be years before that Messenger encrypts conversations by default

The encryption of the Messenger, ” it’s going to happen , “assured Jon Millican, a software engineer at Facebook in charge of privacy in the instant messaging application of the social network. Question is when, and this is where the shoe pinches as the engineer gives a window shot to say the least, vague : “It is not necessary to expect any imminent changes. This will be a long process “, he explains to Wired in the margins of a conference on cryptography in New York. Facebook is committed to doing things well rather than (too) rapidly, he says, which means that it will probably have to wait several years.



In January 2019, Facebook dropped a bomb : his three messengers, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp, will be based on the same infrastructure and all offer encryption of the conversations end-to-end. This is already the case for WhatsApp, and Messenger integrates a mode of conversation secret. Together these three services used by billions of users under one roof is a work of titan ; the default encryption Messenger is another.


I’ll be honest and say that we have more questions than answers , “says Millican. “We have made progress on the calendar, but it turns out that adding encryption end-to-end to an existing system is an incredible challenge and requires a whole rethink “. There are no messages to be encrypted : Messenger offers a large number of features (GIF, video calls, group messaging, stickers, payment service), of which the functioning is based on servers of Facebook.


Encryption of end-to-end for all of these features implies that these features are supported by the applications Messenger and the web version ; the servers of Facebook would be happy to play the role of pass-flat anonymous, neither the social network nor anyone else would be able to see from the users. The team Millican, therefore, must put everything back on and rethink the functions of zero. “Not only do we not add the encryption end-to-end product, we build our products encrypted end-to-end “.


Since 2016, WhatsApp protects the conversations, but the application is less complex than the 2020 version of Messenger and especially, its support of multiple devices is limited. The desktop version will simply display the messages received on the smartphone. The model iMessage is similar to what Facebook wants to accomplish, but the social network is committed to maintaining a web version as complete as the app.


Facebook has several years of work ahead of him to pass the encryption to the default Messenger and to be able to unify the infrastructure of its messengers. Mark Zuckerberg had been promising advances for 2020, but the magnitude of the task is such that it will not hold sti’s breath. “The Future is private “, forged the boss of the company, who has everything to prove in this area. A future far enough !



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