Facebook and Instagram Encryption Plans Delayed Until 2023

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Users on Facebook and Instagram who have been waiting for Meta’s enhanced encryption capabilities to trickle out will have to wait at least another year, it appears.

In a roundabout way, Facebook and Instagram message encryption will be delayed until “sometime in 2023,” according to the company. In a Saturday opinion piece for the UK newspaper The Telegraph, Antigone Davis, the worldwide head of safety for Meta, announced the postponement as well as the 2023 deadline.

“At Meta…we know people expect us to use the most secure technology available which is why all of the personal messages you send on WhatsApp are already end-to-end encrypted and why we’re working to make it the default across the rest of our apps,” Davis wrote. 

The issue, according to Davis, is the difficulty of creating a feature that provides users with security and privacy while simultaneously deterring unlawful or destructive behavior on the site. “If we can’t access your messages, there’s an ongoing argument about how tech companies can continue to curb abuse and support law enforcement’s essential work.” As a result, Meta is taking its time and gathering information from “privacy and safety experts, civil society, and governments to ensure we get things right,” according to her.

Davis spends much of the rest of the piece sketching out Meta’s “three-pronged approach” to assuring user safety across its many platforms, yet none of them address end-to-end message encryption. She returns to the subject at the end of the article, highlighting the conflict between users’ need for complete privacy and the company’s responsibility to protect users (and, let’s be clear, itself) when their behavior breaches legal borders.

“As we roll out end-to-end encryption we will use a combination of non-encrypted data across our apps, account information, and reports from users to keep them safe in a privacy-protected way while assisting public safety efforts,” Davis wrote. This is similar to the core method used by the business with WhatsApp, which uses end-to-end encryption.

The main point of the announcement is that the feature will not be available on Facebook or Instagram until 2023. Given Meta’s past record, there’s plenty of cause to doubt the company’s motives with a post like this (both recent and long-term).

“Facebook’s race-blind standards on hate speech come at the price of Black users, fresh papers show,” according to the Washington Post, in the latest in a series of damaging deep dives behind the scenes of Facebook operations. According to the publication, some Facebook executives resisted a proposed “aggressive redesign” of Facebook’s infrastructure that would prioritize cleaning offensive remarks intended at minority groups before they could be seen by other users.

In terms of what’s new vs what’s been in the news before, the report’s specifics are a little hazy. However, the title and the main narrative, that Facebook’s “race-blind” policy to hate speech has harmed Black users, add another more layer of complexity to Meta’s ongoing public relations disaster.

Meta knew this story was coming ahead of time, assuming the Washington Post reporters performed their full research and requested a response from the source. Is it a coincidence that Davis’ Telegraph column and the info it contains appeared on Sunday, exactly 12 hours before the WaPo report? That’s a distinct possibility, if not a foregone conclusion. However, there’s a chance it was also a calculated effort to change the tone of the talk about Facebook and Meta on Sunday.

To be clear, attributing any kind of ulterior motive to Meta’s end-to-end encryption delay is speculative at best. But that’s where we’re at with the business right now. Facebook, now Meta, has been dishonest with the public on numerous occasions. That can only happen so many times before we begin to doubt the reason behind any decision, particularly in situations like this. End-to-end encryption is, without a doubt, delayed. However, you should read the Washington Post report as well, since it may give you a better sense of how user safety isn’t always prioritized at Meta.

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