Facebook Messenger use Encrypted “Secret Conversations”

July 11, 2016

Facebook Messenger has 800 million regular users, but many of them may hesitate to send personal or sensitive information over the app.

 

Messenger’s “secret conversations” will include end-to-end encryption, the option to self-destruct after a set time, and device limitations.

 

Facebook is currently testing these features with a select group of users, and they intend to make them available for everyone this summer.

 

 

Facebook Messenger uses secure communications channels to keep out spam and malware.

 

The "secret conversations" has significantly stronger safeguards. The encryption is powered by Signal Protocol, an open-source protocol developed by Open Whisper Systems. If you’re technically-oriented, you can read Facebook’s whitepaper on how secret conversations work.

 

Secret conversations are an optional feature. In order to use them, you must start a separate conversation with your recipient, which you can do by tapping on a contact’s name and then selecting “secret conversation.”

 

This new conversation will be end-to-end encrypted, which means in theory that even Facebook itself won’t be able to read them. These messages will only be accessible on one device, namely the phone associated with the recipient’s account. That means you won’t be able to read secret conversations even after logging in on other phones, desktops, or tablets.

 

You can also choose to make individual messages self-destruct after a set amount of time, much like on Snapchat. The time limits appear to vary from 5 seconds to 6 hours.

 

Secret conversations do come with some limitations; they won’t support Messenger’s rich content, such as payments, GIFS, or videos.

 

However, you can still include emojis and send photos. In a blog post, Facebook highlighted that the secret conversation feature would be useful “when discussing private information like an illness or a health issue with trusted friends and family, or sending financial information to an accountant.”

 

Our conclusion: It will likely also appeal to users who want to discuss sensitive business information or share personal photos. Facebook will have to compete with established secure messaging services such as Telegram, but the secret conversations will likely be a welcome feature to people who already habitually use Messenger. 

 

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Written by content manager Meghan Woolley

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