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Facebook reportedly considering making Messenger more secure

A planned end-to-end encryption feature would be opt-in
Joseph Volpe, @jrvolpe
May 31, 2016
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Facebook Messenger could be getting a significant security update this summer. According to The Guardian, the Zuckerberg-led company is looking to implement end-to-end encryption for its messaging app, which has over 900 million monthly active users. The planned feature, which Facebook would neither confirm nor deny, would also be opt-in and not activated by default. The reasoning for that lies with Facebook's larger goals for Messenger: making it a smart, assistive app. Already, the company's rolled out a Bots for Messenger feature that allows users to engage with and order services from brands.

To ensure Messenger's machine learning features continue to grow and adapt (e.g., smart replies), Facebook needs access to users' messages. Encryption obviously gets in the way of this mission since it prevents Facebook from intercepting and analyzing those texts, hence the need for users to opt-in. It's the same stance Google's taking with its own smart messaging app, Allo -- another platform that offers optional encryption.

The move underscores growing concerns over privacy and digital convenience. For users, however, it presents a dilemma -- if you want the sort of lazy, machine-assisted service provided by the likes of Google and Facebook, you have to be willing to let your privacy guards down. If you value privacy, then you have to be content looking in from the outside.

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