Facebook recently concluded the rollout of a new feature to its Messenger app. It’s called ‘Secret Conversations’ and is a brand new mode that lets only the two conversation participants in the chat see what text is in the chat. This feature is so secure, that not even government agencies or Facebook itself will be able to access secret-mode chat between two people, at least according to what Facebook has announced about the feature.
The social networking giant has over a billion users for its Messenger app, and apparently, they will all have access to this new security and privacy feature. The encryption it uses is end-to-end. Similar encryption is used in Google’s Allo, Line, Viber, and WhatsApp, which Facebook also owns.
The messages sent in this feature only go to or from the device that starts the conversation or first responds to the chat. So, if you use this feature to start up a private conversation on your laptop, you won’t be accessing it on your smartphone. The social network is also letting users choose expiration timers for certain messages when in Secret Conversations. These timers are similar to a preexisting Snapchat feature, and options range from just a few seconds to a full 24 hours.
This new feature can be activated when starting up any new message in the Messenger app. You do need to be sure that your iOS or Android is upgraded to the most recent version in order for it to work, and messages are only private if both conversation participants are updated to the latest versions.
Facebook, in announcing this feature, acknowledged that users had been requesting extra safeguards on top of what was already available. In particular, users wanted to be able to have secure conversations regarding topics like transmitting financial data to accountants or talking to close relationships about health issues.
There was not long ago a fight between the FBI and Apple over encryption, which did eventually end, but the impact of that dispute into the tech industry and how tech companies protect the privacy and data security of their users still looms large.
It is likely that the future will see more tension between Silicon Valley establishments and law enforcement agencies, perhaps even internationally, given a recent debacle involving a newsworthy Brazilian criminal case that incorporated someone accessing data from WhatsApp.