With video calls taking hold as a major part of our lives during a way-too-long pandemic, Facebook is doing a little bit more to protect those made on its Messenger platform. But only a little bit.
Facebook announced Friday that end-to-end encryption is coming to voice and video calls made in the Messenger app, effective immediately. For those not plugged into digital privacy discourse, encryption is a type of protection that ensures a message can only be seen by its sender and its recipient. There’s just one caveat: You have to choose to activate encryption, meaning your calls will theoretically be vulnerable to data hijinks unless you opt in to this new feature.
That’s the same approach Facebook takes with Messenger text chats, labeling them “Secret Conversations” within the app and making it weirdly convoluted to activate at all. By not enabling encryption by default, a good number of Messenger chats out there are probably less protected than they could be, and that will likely be the case with voice and video calls, too.
Beyond that, encrypted conversations are also getting some more nuanced disappearing message options. Messenger has allowed users to set messages to disappear for a while now, but instead of being locked into increments like one hour and 24 hours, users will be able to choose to make messages disappear anywhere between five seconds and 24 hours.
Facebook announced that it would test the same thing for group calls in the near future, too. Also in the “coming soon” column is encryption on one-on-one DM conversations in the Instagram app. That’ll start rolling out in a “limited test” capacity for adults in “certain countries” and, yes, it’s also opt-in. Both parties need to follow each other to turn it on, which is the same as Messenger’s policy.
This is a good and necessary upgrade for Messenger calls, even if you have to do a little digging to turn it on. Facebook says there are more than 150 million of these calls happening every day, so any added protection for that data can’t hurt. It’s just a shame that many users may never even know they can take advantage of it.