The company’s push for a more private experience will take longer than expected.
According to The Guardian, safety head Antigone Davis wrote a commentary for The Telegraph in which she warned that the rollout of default end-to-end encrypted messaging in Facebook Messenger and Instagram would be delayed until “sometime in 2023.” The social media company had hoped to complete the transition by 2022, but Davis said it needed more time to “get this right.”
WhatsApp already has the extra privacy enabled, but Facebook Messenger and Instagram still require you to start an encrypted chat (“Secret Conversations” in Messenger). In 2019, Meta, then Facebook, began a larger push toward encryption and other privacy features.
The delay may result in inconvenient timing, at least in the United Kingdom. In 2023, the country will enact a safety law that will require tech companies to prevent abuse and protect children. While encryption backdoors aren’t required, current UK home secretary Priti Patel has been outspoken in her opposition to default encryption, claiming it would “severely” limit law enforcement’s ability to pursue criminals. Meta may face pressure to alter its plans by the time the law goes into effect.
Davis stated that Meta would still be able to detect abuse using a combination of unencrypted data and user reports. The delay may also provide time for governments to reassure one another and avoid potential conflicts. So, while chat encryption isn’t in immediate danger, the longer timeframe adds some uncertainty.