All of Facebook’s 900 million Messenger users can now have secret conversations. Facebook began testing end-to-end encryption on its Messenger app in July and has now completed the rollout.
The ‘secret conversation’ feature will be introduced on a “limited test basis”, but Facebook added it would become more widely available over the summer.
The new system uses the service WhatsApp users already benefit from, but rather than force the upgrade onto people it is letting users choose whether or not to activate it.
Encryption means the message sent can only be read by the sender and the other person from one device – not even Facebook can see it.
Within the ‘secret conversation’ you can also choose to set a timer to control the length of time each message sent remains visible within the chat.
This is because introducing end-to-end encryption could interfere with Facebook’s new chatbots – artificial intelligence that companies and groups can use on Messenger to help with queries.
WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, started using end-to-end encryption in April. Apple also uses the software in iMessages and Google has also announced its new message service Allo will use it.
The difference between the feature in WhatsApp and Facebook, is that the latter is letting you manually activate it.
What you need to know?
You have to decide which device you want to use secret conversations on as only one device can be used
Rich content is not supported, like GIFs, videos or payments – though this could change
There is a self-destruct timer you set so the person receiving it can see it for a limited time
So how do you do it?
What are Facebook Secret Conversations?
The service uses the Signal Protocol developed by Open Whisper Systems. It adds end-to-end encryption to messages making it theoretically impossible for them to be intercepted.
Both you and the other person in the secret conversation have a device key that you can use to verify the messages are end-to-end encrypted and you can also set a timer to have your messages disappear from the conversation.
Secret Conversations is an opt-in feature that lets users encrypt their messages so only the people involved in the chat – not Facebook, law enforcement or intelligence agencies – can see the conversation. The fact it is not enabled by default, however, has been criticised by privacy campaigners.
How to start a Secret Conversation?
After you’ve update your Messenger app, you’ll see a “secret” option on the top right of the “new message” screen.
From the home tab tap Secret in the top right-hand corner and select who you want to message. You can set the message to self-destruct by tapping the clock icon in the text box and by setting the timer.
Secret conversations are currently only available in the Messenger app on iOS and Android, so they won’t appear on Facebook chat or messenger.com. They’re also only visible on the device where you create the conversation and the device the recipient uses to open the conversation.
How to switch devices
To change which device you use for secret conversations, start a new secret conversation from the new device. Be warned though that by changing devices, previous secret conversations will no longer be visible on your old device or your new device.
How to delete Secret Conversations
To delete all secret conversations, tap the profile icon, select Secret Conversations and choose Delete Secret Conversations and Delete All. The messages will still be visible on your friend’s device.
How to check your messages are encrypted
When Secret Conversations are enabled; both people in the secret conversation have a device key. This can be compared to verify that the messages are end-to-end encrypted. Facebook said that this verification process is optional and the messages will be encrypted whether or not you compare device keys.
To view a conversation’s device keys open a conversation, tap their name and tap Device Keys.