Greener BeeGreen GadgetsEnd-to-end encryption is coming to Facebook Messenger

Messages you send on Facebook will soon have extra protection from snooping third parties with a new end-to-end encryption feature called “secret conversations.”

A conversation that’s been encrypted can only be read by the sender and the receiver, preventing law enforcement or even Facebook itself from being able to intercept it.

Secret conversations won’t immediately be available to everyone – instead Facebook says it’s planning to roll it out to a small number of users for beta testing before making it available to all Facebook Messenger users later in the summer. 

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    Around 350 million photos are uploaded to Facebook every day, with the site estimating in September last year that users had so far put up more than 250 billion images. That’s 4,000 photos uploaded every second and around 4 per cent of all photos ever taken, according to a study by Nokia.

    REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

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    Facebook’s logo is blue because Mark Zuckerberg is red-green colour blind. “Blue is the richest color for me. I can see all of blue,” said Zuckerberg in an interview with the New Yorker. The colour is so popular that Facebook’s campus store even sells nail polish in the exact shade named ‘social butterfly blue’.

    REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

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    Zuckerberg’s famously low-key wardrobe (either a grey t-shirt or a hoodie) is so that the CEO saves time deciding what to wear each day. However, Zuckerberg is known to dress up when the occasion demands it. For a 2011 event with Barack Obama he showed up in a suit, with the president introducing himself by saying: “I’m Barack Obama and I’m the guy who got Mark to wear a jacket and tie.”

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    In July 2006 Zuckerberg turned down a $1 billion offer for the site from Yahoo. He was 22 years old at the time and owned 25 per cent of the company. Zuckerberg reportedly turned it down by saying “I don’t know what I could do with the money. I’d just start another social networking site. I kind of like the one I already have.” He definitely made the right choice: Facebook is now valued at $135 billion.

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    A YouGov poll claimed that three-quarter of UK Facebook users’ photos showed someone drinking or inebriated. However, the poll did ask users to estimate the number of boozy snaps themselves, and like all things on Facebook, there might have been an element of exaggeration involved.

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    Facebook operates a bounty hunter program – for bugs. Like many other big technology companies Facebook offers cash rewards to security researchers who point out flaws in the site’s code. The minimum payout is $500 and the largest prize to date has been $33,500.

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    More than a third of divorce filings in 2011 referenced Facebook, said a survey from UK-based legal firm Divorce Online. The exact figures may be an estimate, but with just under 8 trillion Facebook messages sent in 2013 it’s certain that a substantial body of evidence is to be found on the social network.

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    Zuckerberg isn’t much of a Twitter fan. Despite having nearly three hundred thousand followers on the service he’s only tweeted 19 times – once in 2012 and the rest in 2009. Although Facebook dwarfs twitter in terms of active users (1 billion compared with 200 million by some accounts) the micro-blogging site handles breaking news better. Facebook has introduced trending topics and hashtags to counter this.

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    Following the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009 Iceland decided to rewrite their constitution using Facebook to solicit suggestions from citizens. Unfortunately, despite this forward thinking approach, the document was killed by politicians in mid-2013 for various (mostly technical) reasons.

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    You can browse Facebook upside down. Facebook currently supports more than 70 different languages – including English (Pirate) and English (Upside Down). Check the bottom of the column on the right of your newsfeed and click your current language to change!

It doesn’t seem like such a long time ago that message encryption was a topic of little interest but with people increasingly concerned with online privacy and surveillance, interest in encryption software has soared and Facebook is joining a host of other messaging apps using it to give their users peace of mind.

Messaging service WhatsApp, which is actually owned by Facebook, started using end-to-end encryption in April. Apple also uses the software in its iMessages and even Google announced that its new messaging app Allo would have an end-to-end encryption option available. 

Where Facebook will differ from WhatsApp is in the fact that the encryption feature is opt-in rather than applied as a default. This means that the messages you send will only be encrypted when you manually activate the secret conversations option.

Secret conversations will only work on one device so you’ll have to decide which one and it also won’t support rich content such as GIFs, videos, or payments, though this could change in the future.

In addition to encrypting your messages, secret conversation mode will also give you the option to set a self-destruct timer on specific messages in a conversation just for that extra ephemerality. 

Facebook Messenger has over 900 million active monthly users making this a huge step for global user privacy. It’s especially timely in terms of user perception that Facebook is rolling out the feature now, too, since it has recently faced criticism from privacy watchdogs over user tracking.  

Besides this, as public concern over privacy online grows, it’s essential that Facebook offers encryption in some form if it hopes to remain a messaging platform of choice. 

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