Facebook is testing encrypted chat backups

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Meta, formerly known as Facebook, announced plans Thursday to test a new secure storage feature for end-to-end encrypted user chat backups on Messenger.

The announcement comes after Facebook handed over its Messenger chat history to Nebraska police as part of an investigation into an alleged illegal abortion. Meta spokesperson Andy Stone said the feature has been in the works for a while and has nothing to do with the Nebraska case.

End-to-end encryption ensures that both parties can chat securely by shuffling data so that messages can only be read by the sender and receiver. The secure storage feature will allow users to back up their encrypted Messenger conversations end-to-end in case they want to restore their message history on a new device.

Facebook will not be able to access these messages, and users can generate a PIN, generated code, or use a third-party cloud service to retrieve their messages.

The feature is rolling out to Android and iOS devices this week, but it’s not yet available on the Messenger website. Meta has also announced plans to expand end-to-end encrypted messaging tests on Instagram.

“People want to trust that their online conversations with friends and family are private and secure,” Meta said in a statement. “We work hard to protect your personal messages and calls with end-to-end encryption by default on Messenger and Instagram.”

The company has been discussing the mass rollout of end-to-end encryption since 2016, but critics said the security measure would make it more difficult for law enforcement to catch predatory children.

At the “Legal Access Summit” hosted by the Department of Justice in 2019, FBI Director Christopher Wray said Facebook would become “a dream come true for harassers and child pornography photographers.”

Meta said in the release that it is making progress towards the global rollout of virtual end-to-end encryption for personal messages and calls in 2023.

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