You no longer have to give up the privacy of end-to-end encryption in Facebook Messenger just to get the creature comforts you take for granted. Meta is bringing several common features to encrypted chats. You can now choose themes, set profiles for group conversations and use custom emoji as well as reactions. Active status and web link previews now work in this more secure mode, while the Android crowd can take advantage of floating Bubbles to talk while they're using other apps.
You're more likely to use encrypted chats, too. Meta is expanding tests that make encryption the default for Facebook Messenger. You'll see the changes to some conversation threads in the "next few months," the company says. If you're part of the test, you'll get a notification in a relevant thread.
Meta started testing default encryption last August. At the time, it said it hoped to roll out the Facebook Messenger upgrade sometime in 2023. The social media firm didn't provide an updated timeline, but the feature expansion takes Meta considerably closer to that goal — there's considerably more parity with unencrypted chats. Encrypted Messenger caught up on some features at the start of 2022, but was still well behind its less secure counterpart.
Not everyone will be happy. Officials in the US, UK and elsewhere have attacked end-to-end encryption. They're concerned criminals could use encrypted chats to discuss plans beyond the reach of law enforcement and surveillance agencies. Politicians, such as former US Attorney General Bill Barr, have called on Meta to weaken encryption by creating "backdoors." Meta has refused to back down, though, and it's evident that the company is determined to bolster privacy across its products.