The parent company of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp doesn’t plan to roll out end-to-end encryption until 2023. Find out why!
Let us explore the winding road that has brought Meta to this decision.
Meta’s goal is to integrate all functionalities on Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp. This will enable users to post messages across the four apps, with each app’s existing features available across the board.
From a business perspective, this is a no-brainer for Meta. According to Statista, all four apps had combined monthly active users of 7.6 billion as of October 2021.
To many users, the integration is a scary prospect from a privacy perspective. In order to help reassure users that their Meta experience would be kept private across all platforms, Meta has been working to integrate cross-platform end-to-end encryption (E2EE).
The plan has been delayed due to what Meta says is a desire to engage with all concerned parties to ensure end-to-end encryption is not abused by bad actors. However, when you read between the lines, it appears Meta has buckled to pressure from law enforcement and regulators, who have been adamantly opposed to Meta’s E2EE plans.
Law enforcers in the US, Australia, and the UK have been urging Meta to ensure its E2EE plans would allow them to secretly read encrypted chats when necessary. Meta originally rejected the idea, but now seems willing to play ball with governments, which are determined not to be locked out.
Meta and big tech have come under pressure from regulators around the world in recent years and months. Indeed, just a few days ago, Ireland’s regulator slapped a $267M fine on WhatsApp for data privacy violations.
Can a Balance Be Found?
The biggest concerns with encryption are child safety and national security. The UK’s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) has said encrypting messages could lead to the easier spread of child porn, child abuse, and online grooming of minors.
Governments have a legitimate interest in preventing criminals and terrorists from communicating with impunity using encrypted apps. Humanity has a vested interest in protecting children and teenagers from sexual predators.
So, what happens next? That’s what Meta needs more time to figure out.
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