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Facebook tests 'end-to-end' encryption on Messenger app

Tech editor Dan Howley outlines how Meta will be updating its Facebook Messenger app amid privacy concerns.

Video transcript

RACHELLE AKUFFO: Welcome back. Facebook announcing plans to add end to end encryption to its messenger chat service. Joining us with more on these changes is Yahoo Finance Reporter Dan Howley. Dan.

DAN HOWLEY: That's right. They're going to begin rolling out end to end encryption on its Messenger app by default for some users. Now, currently, if there is end to end encryption, you have to enable it on your own. Default end to end encryption, though, would mean that only you and the person that you're sending your message to will be able to see it.

Basically, it's encrypted from your device, sent over encrypted, and then only their device can decrypt it, or their account, rather. This is important, because if you are having conversations with friends, or family, or someone else that you need to have some kind of confidence with, you can, then, be safe knowing that your messages cannot be read by third parties-- and that includes Meta.

They won't be able to see it at all. Now, they already have end to end encryption on their app, WhatsApp. This is for Messenger in particular. And again, it is going to be rolling out over time. So it doesn't necessarily mean that you'll have it. It's also just being tested.

So it doesn't mean that if you have it now you'll continue to have it. But as people continue to become more and more aware of their privacy and security online, this is an important step forward. And it also comes against the backdrop of the broader discussion when it comes to people's privacy and abortion rights.

We've obviously seen reports of some people's data being used against them in abortion cases. And so when it comes to Messenger in particular, if you're having a sensitive conversation like that, if you can have it encrypted, that means that nobody, not even, as I said, Meta or even law enforcement are able to get access to it.

BRIAN CHEUNG: Differ from other types of encrypted messaging services that I know people like to use, for example, Signal-- is this more or less kind of stringent than those other types of protocols?

DAN HOWLEY: Essentially, end to end encryption-- end to end encrypted, you know, it's apples and apples. It's not really going to be very different. If it's actually end to end encrypted, fully encrypted, then it won't differ much from any other service that you may have, like Signal, like a ProtonMail, things along those lines.

So you basically can rest assured that your data will not be able to be viewed when you send it. Whatever the contents of that message are, nobody will be able to read it at all. So it really is the most secure way to send messages.

And as I said, this comes against the backdrop of the abortion debate. And the idea of encryption in tech has been kind of hairy in the past. We've had, obviously, the Justice Department go after Apple because they encrypt users' iPhones, or ensure that users can encrypt their iPhones when they install things like passwords.

So you have to imagine that law enforcement and other authorities would not appreciate seeing this move. But as general users, and consumers, and people who are interested in privacy, this is certainly a welcome step.

BRIAN CHEUNG: All right, Yahoo Finance's Dan Howley, thanks so much for the breakdown there.