Facebook announced on Friday that voice and video calls in Messenger will now be equipped with end-to-end encryption (E2EE) and that Instagram Direct Messages may follow soon.
"Today, we’re rolling out the option to make voice and video calls end-to-end encrypted on Messenger, along with updated controls for disappearing messages. People expect their messaging apps to be secure and private, and with these new features, we’re giving them more control over how private they want their calls and chats to be," wrote in a blog Ruth Kricheli, Director of Product Management, Messenger.
"Since 2016, we’ve offered the option to secure your one-on-one text chats with end-to-end encryption. In the past year, we’ve seen a surge in the use of audio and video calling with more than 150 million video calls a day on Messenger. Now we’re introducing calling to this chat mode so you can secure your audio and video calls with this same technology, if you choose."
This is overall good news but it does come with certain caveats. Facebook accounts for over 90% of the illicit and child sexual abuse material (CSAM) flagged by tech companies and making the platform more private may make it harder to spot such activity.
Facebook's new move is in stark contrast to Apple's new policy of scanning every single iPhone for images of child abuse. This latest news drew praise from child protection groups but caused concerns for other groups. These concerns were about entrusting private information to systems that are not subject to public consent. The problem is that this could lead to a new sphere of legitimized surveillance on ordinary citizens.
In the end, it's hard to strike a balance between offering privacy to technology users and making sure that no one is exploited. Navigating these difficult issues will take time and may be a process of trial and error.