While message encryption is something that a lot of users would prefer to have to protect their privacy, there are also some disadvantages to this feature. Organizations fighting for child safety believe that private messaging is now the “frontline of child sexual abuse online”. Meta has now delayed their plans to encrypt messages on their Facebook and Instagram platforms from 2022 to 2023 as they want to get things right when it comes to protecting privacy and keeping people safe online.
A report from The Guardian says that Meta has delayed plans to bring end-to-end encryption to both its Facebook Messenger and Instagram platforms. Currently, messaging app WhatsApp already has E2E and voice and video calls on Messenger are encrypted as well. Back in 2019, Mark Zuckerberg announced their privacy drive to protect users’ private communications from hackers, criminals, over-reaching governments, and even those operating the services they’re using.
However, the company has faced enormous pressure from the U.K government (and other governments as well) and child advocacy groups to abandon their encryption plans. According to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), messaging, particularly the encrypted ones, is being used to perpetrate online and offline child abuse since the messages are only seen by the sender and recipient and prevents law enforcement from accessing it and acting on it.
Meta Head of Safety Antigone Davis says they are moving plans for the global rollout of end-to-end encryption to 2023. Previously, it was supposed to happen in 2022 but they want to take their time to get things right when it comes to this important privacy feature. She also said that they will still be able to detect abuse under its encryption plans through non-encrypted data, account information, and reports from users, similar to what they’re doing with WhatsApp.
U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel has been one of the most vocal critics of Meta’s plans. She has previously said, “We cannot allow a situation where law enforcement’s ability to tackle abhorrent criminal acts and protect victims is severely hampered.” We’ll see how Meta will change (or not change) their encryption plans in the next couple of years.