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Facebook Messenger gets end-to-end encrypted voice, video calls; Instagram may be next

The Facebook and Facebook Messenger logos next to each other on a laptop screen and a smartphone screen.
(Image credit: viewimage/Shutterstock)

Facebook today (Aug. 13) announced it was giving users the option for end-to-end encryption of voice and video calls made in Messenger, one of the company's two instant-messaging apps.

"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 Ruth Kricheli, Facebook's director of Messenger product management, in a company blog post.

The move comes five years after Messenger introduced a similar "Secret Conversations" option to make one-to-one text chats end-to-end encrypted if both parties agreed. WhatsApp, which Facebook bought in 2014, implemented full end-to-end encryption in 2016.

"The content of your messages and calls in an end-to-end encrypted conversation is protected from the moment it leaves your device to the moment it reaches the receiver's device," Kricheli explained. "This means that nobody else, including Facebook, can see or listen to what's sent or said."

Kricheli wrote that Facebook Messenger was also giving users greater control over the longevity of disappearing messages within end-to-end encrypted chats, "from as few as 5 seconds to as long as 24 hours."

But, as a TV commercial would say, that's not all. In the "coming weeks," Kricheli wrote, Messenger would "begin testing end-to-end encryption for group chats, including voice and video calls, for friends and family that already have an existing chat thread or are already connected."

And, she added, Facebook would be testing similar options for Instagram direct messages.

"We’ll also kick off a limited test with adults in certain countries that lets them opt-in to end-to-end encrypted messages and calls for one-on-one conversations on Instagram," Kricheli wrote. "Similar to how Messenger works today, you need to have an existing chat or be following each other to start an end-to-end encrypted DM."

Paul Wagenseil

Paul Wagenseil is a senior editor at Tom's Guide focused on security and privacy. He has also been a dishwasher, fry cook, long-haul driver, code monkey and video editor. He's been rooting around in the information-security space for more than 15 years at FoxNews.com, SecurityNewsDaily, TechNewsDaily and Tom's Guide, has presented talks at the ShmooCon, DerbyCon and BSides Las Vegas hacker conferences, shown up in random TV news spots and even moderated a panel discussion at the CEDIA home-technology conference. You can follow his rants on Twitter at @snd_wagenseil.