Why Facebook postponed encryption on Messenger and Instagram again

The arrival of end-to-end encryption by default on Messenger and Instagram is still postponed: here's why and when it will arrive

At the beginning of the year, the Facebook group, now Meta, had manifested through a blog post its intention to bring end-to-end encryption by default on Messenger and Instagram "not before 2022," thus aligning the two apps with what has been happening for some time now on board the world's best-known messaging app, WhatsApp.

At that point, Meta would have the three main apps, as well as among the absolute most downloaded apps in the world, "covered" by default by end-to-end encryption, a system that exponentially increases the security of conversations conveyed by the app that implement it, such as WhatsApp. A nice idea for users, who in this way would have further reassurance that no one, other than the sender and the recipient, can misappropriate the content of a conversation. A Meta man, however, has just let it be known that the measure won't arrive until 2023, so it's been delayed for a year.

Delayed to improve security

Meta's head of security, Antigone Davis, spoke out in The Telegraph, expressing some concerns specifically about user security. Since end-to-end encryption implies that conversations are only readable by the sender and recipient, Davis and Meta first want to make sure that this doesn't impact the platform's ability to help stop criminals.

By the time end-to-end encryption becomes available, Davis says, "we will be using a combination of unencrypted data in our apps, account information and user reports to keep users safe, but not forgetting efforts to protect public safety." Sooner or later, end-to-end encryption will be part of Messenger and Instagram's "standard" equipment, only the intention to do everything right is behind the delay from 2022 to 2023.

United Kingdom skeptical of encryption

So one more difficulty for Meta and E2EE encryption comes from the United Kingdom, where just in 2023 the Online Security Act will come into force. This will require platforms to take specific measures to protect minors and deal with offensive content in a more timely manner than now. And the two events are linked by the fact that the UK Home Secretary, Priti Patel, has in the past criticized end-to-end encryption on the grounds that it could hinder the fight against child abuse.

According to reports from the BBC, Patel said that "unfortunately, at the very time when greater efforts need to be made, Facebook is still considering introducing E2EE encryption, which would not only hinder what we have in mind but risk jeopardizing what we have already done." Is a new delay on the horizon?