Meta’s push for a more private experience will take longer than the company initially hoped. According to The Guardian, safety head Antigone Davis wrote a commentary for The Telegraph warning that the rollout of default end-to-end encrypted messaging in Facebook Messenger and Instagram was delayed to “sometime in 2023.” The social media firm had originally planned for the move to wrap up as soon as 2022, but it wanted the extra time to “get this right,” Davis said.
The extra privacy is already enabled in WhatsApp, but Facebook Messenger and Instagram still require that you start an encrypted chat (“Secret Conversations” in Messenger). Meta, then Facebook, started a broader push toward encryption and other privacy features in 2019.
The delay could lead to awkward timing, at least in the UK. The country is enacting a safety law in 2023 that will require tech companies to prevent abuse and safeguard children. While it doesn’t require encryption backdoors, current UK home secretary Priti Patel hasn’t been shy about opposing default encryption — she claimed it would “severely” limit law enforcement’s ability to pursue criminals. Meta might face pressure to change its plans by the time the law takes effect.
Davis said Meta would still have the power to detect abuse through a combination of unencrypted info and user reports. The delay might also offer time to reassure governments and head off potential conflicts. Chat encryption isn’t under immediate threat, then, but the longer timeframe adds some uncertainty.