Facebook Messenger Lets You Go Stealth with Secret Conversations

Social media giant Facebook announced that it is testing end-to-end encryption on its Messenger app through a feature called Secret Conversations. The encryption will be powered by the Signal Protocol developed by Open Whisper Systems. But the way Facebook has chosen to deploy the feature may undercut its usefulness.

That's because Secret Conversations is being offered as an opt-in feature, rather than being enabled by default as with WhatsApp, Facebook?EU?s other messaging platform. So users will have to manually set their conversations to "secret" at the beginning of each session. Facebook said it chose to make implementation optional to allow people to use Messenger on multiple devices such as tablets, phones, or desktops, something that isn?EU?t possible when encryption is enabled.

Playing Catch-Up With the Competition

Raul Castanon-Martinez, senior analyst for enterprise mobility at 451 Research, told us that the decision to add encryption to Messenger was something Facebook needed to do to catch up with the other messaging apps on the market. "While FB Messenger is the most popular messaging app, it is not always the most innovative," Castanon-Martinez said. "Encryption has become a 'must-have' and a feature FB Messenger needed to keep up."

The encryption capability should help Facebook better monetize the Messenger app, Castanon-Martinez said. "Facebook has made it clear that they want to be the preeminent platform for users to interact with the companies they do business with," he told us. "Privacy and security could become critical for users that might need to exchange sensitive information over FB messenger with their banks for example. This will become increasingly relevant given the push that FB is giving to smart bots for conversational commerce."

Secret Conversations will function as a new conversation mode within the Messenger app, according to a white paper Facebook produced about the new feature. It will, however,...

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