Meta, the parent firm, said all Facebook and Messenger discussions will be automatically encrypted.
Only the sender and the recipient can decipher messages and calls encrypted using end-to-end (E2EE) technology.
Although users have had the option to enable encrypted messaging for some time, this feature will soon be standard.
The UK government and police are among those who are opposed to the change to default encryption because they believe it will make it more difficult to identify cases of child sexual abuse on Messenger.
After collaborating to address other forms of internet damage, Home Secretary James Cleverly expressed his “incredibly disappointed” by Meta’s decision.
“We’ll continue to work closely with them (Meta) to keep children safe online, but we must be honest that in our view, this is a significant step back”, according to him.
Also quite critical was James Babbage of the National Crime Agency, who is director general for threats.
To implement end-to-end encryption on Facebook Messenger is a tremendous letdown by Meta.
“Today our role in protecting children from sexual abuse and exploitation just got harder,” according to him.
According to Messenger CEO Loredana Crisan, “unless you choose to report a message to us,” no one, not even Meta, can see the content of a message after the transition to encryption.
She informed that in order to “ensure that privacy and safety go hand-in-hand,” the corporation has collaborated with outside specialists, researchers, campaigners, and governments to assess potential dangers.
Meta also owns Instagram so that encryption may be enabled by default for communications there in the new year.
When users’ chats are upgraded to encrypted, they will be notified by a prompt to set up a recovery method. This will allow them to restore their communications if they lose, modify, or add a device.
Apps like WhatsApp, iMessage, and Signal use E2EE to encrypt conversations, but the technology has become a political flashpoint.
App developers and advocates claim their technology safeguards users’ personal information, even that of children.
However, the growth of E2EE has faced opposition from the government, prominent children’s organizations, and law enforcement.
Ofcom may soon have the authority to compel tech companies to decrypt texts for content that might be considered child abuse thanks to the newly enacted Online Safety Act. WhatsApp and Signal have publicly stated their refusal to comply with such demands.
Even with those abilities, Meta is still under pressure to halt the expansion of E2EE.
According to the former Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, who accused in September, “We are arresting in this country about 800 perpetrators a month, we are safeguarding about 1,200 children a month from this evil crime” and claimed that online pedophiles preferred using Facebook Messenger and Instagram direct messages.
Meta countered that it has invested much in internet security by creating strong safeguards to identify and stop abuse.
“When E2EE is the default, we will also use a variety of tools, including artificial intelligence, subject to applicable law, to proactively detect accounts engaged in malicious behavior patterns instead of scanning private messages,” according to the business.
The installation of what King’s College London’s head of cryptography, Prof. Martin Albrecht, referred to as a conventional safety feature was warmly received.
“It secures not only government and business communication, but also private conversations between parents and their children, parents about their children, or groups of friends of all ages,” according to him.
The internet company’s choice had the support of the campaign organization Privacy International. It told the BBC that encryption was “an essential defence, shielding journalists, human rights defenders, lawyers, artists, and marginalised groups from potential abuse by data-hungry companies and governments” .
Internet Watch Foundation chief executive Susie Hargreaves expressed her organization’s fury at Meta’s decision to “prioritise the privacy of paedophiles over the safety of our children” in its efforts to discover and remove online child sexual abuse material.
She contended that the site was “effectively rolling out the welcome mat for pedophiles” because of its history of successfully identifying and removing extensive amounts of child abuse content from its servers.
Ms. Hargreaves stated that Ofcom has to “show its teeth” now.
Among the many new capabilities introduced by the company on Wednesday is the option to revise transmitted messages up to fifteen minutes later.
The option to receive “read receipts” informing the sender that their communication has been read will also be available to users.
It will take a few months for the adjustments to be fully implemented, according to the business.