Facebook Messenger: finally even video calls are safe

Good news for those who use Facebook Messenger to make calls and video calls: end-to-end encryption is coming to the platform.

With quite a few years of delay compared to its cousin WhatsApp, now even the Messenger app adopts end-to-end encryption for video calls and audio-only calls. A relief for the privacy of hundreds of millions of users, who can now see and hear each other without the risk of being intercepted by anyone: even if a hacker would succeed, in fact, would have in hand only a stream of illegal data.

Facebook says it has taken this decision, which everyone expected well before, because of the boom in video calls triggered by the pandemic of Covid-19 and the consequent increase in smartworking and meetings "not in presence". Today, more than 150 million video calls go through the Messenger platform every day. The novelty has not yet arrived on Italian apps, but Facebook guarantees that the rollout has already begun. The end-to-end encryption will be available for everyone, but optional: we will have to activate it manually and it is not clear whether it will be possible to choose whether to activate it for a single video call or for all at the same time. We'll know more in a few days.

End-to-end encryption: why it's important

End-to-end encryption is a type of encryption where data leaves the first device already encrypted and travels encrypted all the way (i.e. all the platform's servers) to the recipient's device, where it is decrypted.

The cryptographic keys are stored inside the two devices, so no one can decrypt the data flow, not even the platform itself (Messenger, in this case). The mechanism used is therefore the same one that has long been active on WhatsApp and many other instant messaging platforms.

It should be noted that Messenger has been offering end-to-end encryption for text messages since 2016, so everyone would have expected this feature to arrive much sooner for calls and video calls as well.

Updated controls on disappearing messages

A second novelty introduced in the last hours by Facebook Messenger concerns "expiring messages", messages that disappear after being read or after a certain amount of time. Now users can choose how much time must pass before a message disappears: they can choose from a minimum of 5 seconds to a maximum of 24 hours.