Over the next few months, Meta will gradually expand end-to-end encryption (E2EE) to all messenger users to ensure comprehensive high-level security.
“Gradually” is the key word here It will randomly select the meta state (opens in a new tab) Which chats get E2EE and which don’t. When selected, everyone in the selected chat will be notified if their app now has an extra layer of protection. The reasoning behind the random selection process is to offload both the users and the company’s own infrastructure so as not to overwhelm either of them. Ideally, rollouts are smoother when done incrementally rather than all at once. Also, during this time Meta will test whether E2EE will become the default in Messenger. So if you’re one of the lucky few to be picked first, be sure to install the update as soon as possible for optimal security.
Notably, as early as 2021 (opens in a new tab), Meta said it plans to release a full version of E2EE to Messenger and Instagram in 2023. The latter’s end-to-end encryption is available in some regions, and the official launch may still be in the works.Instagram’s E2EE feature is in beta until August 2022 (opens in a new tab). There isn’t much other information, but Meta’s latest announcement does mention that it will provide updates “during 2023”.
old is new now
In addition to the expansion, E2EE-enabled Messenger chats will also get six new features for improved security and customization; though it’s not something we haven’t seen before.
You have features like link previews, so you know where you’re going when you select a hyperlink, and the ability to adjust your activity status for added privacy. Further down, chat themes are now available, so you can ditch the plain white background plus custom emoji reactions, group profile photos, and bubble notifications that appear when using other apps (though only on Android).
It looks like Meta is bridging the gap between the non-encrypted version of Messenger and this new version that supports E2EE. Perhaps the company is preparing to eventually ditch non-encrypted apps as part of a long-term plan, but it’s too early to tell if that’s going to happen.
We asked Meta if these six features would roll out to all E2EE Messenger users today, or if they would coincide with the aforementioned gradual rollout. We also asked for an update on encryption on Instagram, as there has been hardly any news about E2EE on the app in the past few months. This story will be updated if we hear back.
If you’re interested in other messaging apps with E2EE and don’t want to wait for Messenger, be sure to check out A list of TechRadar’s best updates. Of course, you have Meta’s own WhatsApp, which has been encrypted for years. You also have Telegram and Threema.