Privacy Win! Facebook Offers Encrypted Messages with Self-Destruct Option

By: Jeff Caldwell

Facebook wants its user base to know they are serious about privacy.

On Friday, July 8th, Facebook announced it is testing “Secret Conversations” within Facebook Messenger. These messages are end-to-end encrypted, meaning the only person, other than the sender, capable of reading the messages is the intended recipient, no one else- not even Facebook.

From Facebook’s Newsroom:

“Starting a secret conversation with someone is optional… Secret conversations can only be read on one device and we recognize that experience may not be right for everyone. It’s also important to note that in secret conversations we don’t currently support rich content like GIFs and videos, making payments, or other popular Messenger features.”

Users have the capability of setting a timer for messages to self-destruct, otherwise messages are stored on each member’s device permanently. Facebook’s Technical Whitepaper states, “On-device encryption ensures that messages stored permanently on a particular device are only accessible while a user is [logged in] to Facebook.” Once the self-destructing message disappears, it is gone forever.

Although Facebook cannot read the encrypted messages within secret conversations, users do have the capability of reporting messages against Facebook’s Terms of Service. A report includes the timestamp, context, the encrypted message, the reporting tag number, and the assigned message number that may only be used once. This is verification of a message was sent between the two devices. Facebook cannot read the encrypted message. If a message has a set time to disappear, the message will visibly self-destruct immediately after the time has lapsed. However, a message is fully deleted off each device shortly after the specified time.

Further rollout dates are expected through the summer.