End-to-End Encryption (E2EE) is a system of communication where only the communicating users can read the messages. It prevents potential eavesdroppers – including telecom providers, Internet providers, and even the provider of the communication service – from being able to access the cryptographic keys needed to decrypt the conversation. The systems are programmed to defeat any attempt by surveillance or tampering because no third parties can decipher the data being communicated or stored.
As the demand for strong security measures by consumers continually increase, tech companies such as Facebook , Google , Apple , Viber and more are working effortlessly to secure users communication. Facebook has rolled out a beta version of a new feature tagged “Secret Conversations” to allow users encrypt their chats in Messenger. The encryption prevents law enforcement and even Facebook itself from reading users’ chats, ensuring that their conversations remain private.
Although, Facebook-owned WhatsApp activated its end-to-end encryption to its users in April, this feat is Facebook’s major first step towards bringing a core part of its main product in line with the encryption trend. Apple has used a form of end-to-end encryption in iMessage for years;Viber added the protection to its 700 million users’ messages just weeks after WhatsApp, and Google announced in May that its new messaging app, Allo would offer end-to-end encryption as an option.
Facebook’s secret conversations will use a protocol called Signal, created by the non-profit Open Whisper Systems . It is well-known and well-tested, already used in WhatsApp, Allo, and Signal’s standalone app. Open Whisper’s founder, Moxie Marlinspike says Facebook’s implementation is reasonably done, adding that other major services may soon roll out his group’s crypto standard. We are continuing to work with other people, Marlinspike says.
Facebook has taken steps to ensure that users chat Messenger has also taken steps even when their devices are stolen. In secret conversations, users can set an expiration date for a message so that it will not be visible in the conversation forever. Once the time runs out, the message will disappear from the devices of all users in the conversation.
Secret conversation mode will only be available on iOS and Android, not in Messenger.com, Facebook chat, or the desktop Messenger app — at least for now. Facebook’s Vice President of Messaging Products, David Marcus said, adding that end-to-end encryption is intended to help Messenger become everyone’s go-to app.
“We wanted to make Messenger your primary messaging platform, and while we currently were already using a lot of security to ensure that your messages are safe and confidential, we felt that we needed to go one more extra step with this new mode. The combination of end-to-end encryption and a message countdown clock will truly empower people to have any type of conversation they want to on Messenger,” he stated.
You can get the technical details about Facebook’s implementation of secret conversations in this white paper (PDF).