Meta Platforms will start fully encrypting messages on Facebook and Instagram by default, moving ahead with a privacy measure that government officials and others have warned could hide illegal activity by child predators and other criminals.
The social-media giant starting this week will begin automatically shifting Facebook users to so-called end-to-end encryption for their messages, according to people familiar with the matter, with the change being rolled out over the course of weeks. Direct messages on Instagram also will shift to such encryption by default somewhat later, likely in the New Year, they said.
While law enforcement and other groups have voiced concerns, many privacy advocates have long pushed tech companies to incorporate end-to-end encryption, which shields communications from view by outsiders—including criminal hackers and spies as well as company security officials and law enforcement.
Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg has long embraced the value of encryption, and Meta already runs WhatsApp, the world’s largest encrypted platform. But pairing such technology with the company’s two massive public platforms, Facebook and Instagram, presented both technical and philosophical issues, and Meta has had to extend its timetable for rolling out the changes.
“There are real safety concerns to address before we can implement end-to-end encryption across all of our messaging services," Zuckerberg said when he first announced the company’s plans in 2019, acknowledging that the technology could protect “people doing bad things." Nonetheless, Zuckerberg said, the change was the right thing to do because users deserved absolute privacy in their communications.