US, UK, and Australia Urge Zuckerberg Not to Extend Encrypted Messaging to Facebook and Instagram

U.S., U.K., and Australian officials have contacted Facebook to request that it provides authorities with a way to access encrypted messages sent by users over the social network, it was revealed today.

Facebook-owned WhatsApp already uses end-to-end encryption to ensure only senders and recipients can read messages, but Facebook intends to extend the same protocols to its Messenger and Instagram Direct chat platforms.


However, government officials have penned an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg asking him not to go ahead with the plan – or if it does, to at least give authorities a way to read encrypted messages for reasons of law enforcement, and in particular to prevent child sexual exploitation.

A draft of the letter, obtained by BuzzFeed News, is set to be released in tandem with an announcement on a new data-sharing agreement between law enforcement in the U.S. and the U.K. aimed at removing barriers to cross-border surveillance.
"We are writing to request that Facebook does not proceed with its plan to implement end-to-end encryption across its messaging services without ensuring that there is no reduction to user safety," the letter reads.

"Risks to public safety from Facebook’s proposals are exacerbated in the context of a single platform that would combine inaccessible messaging services with open profiles, providing unique routes for prospective offenders to identify and groom our children."

"Security enhancements to the virtual world should not make us more vulnerable in the physical world. Companies should not deliberately design their systems to preclude any form of access to content, even for preventing or investigating the most serious crimes."
The letter, dated October 4, is signed by U.S. Attorney General William P Barr, U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel, acting U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, and the Australian minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton.
"We believe people have the right to have a private conversation online, wherever they are in the world," a Facebook spokesperson said in response to the letter. "Ahead of our plans to bring more security and privacy to our messaging apps, we are consulting closely with child safety experts, governments and technology companies and devoting new teams and sophisticated technology so we can use all the information available to us to help keep people safe."

"We strongly oppose government attempts to build backdoors because they would undermine the privacy and security of people everywhere."
Zuckerberg also defended his decision to encrypt Facebook's messaging services, despite concerns about its impact on child exploitation and other criminal activity.

Speaking on Thursday in a livestreamed version of the company's weekly internal Q&A session, the CEO said child exploitation risks weighed "most heavily" on him when he was making the decision and pledged steps to minimize harm.

Apple has long opposed government attempts to gain access to encrypted communications through the use of backdoors in iOS devices.

In 2016, a U.S. federal judge ordered Apple to help the FBI hack into the iPhone owned by Syed Farook, one of the shooters in the December 2015 attacks in San Bernardino.

The FBI asked Apple to create a version of iOS that would both disable passcode security features and allow passcodes to be entered electronically, allowing it to then brute force the passcode on the device.

Apple announced that it would oppose the order in an open letter penned by Tim Cook, who said the FBI's request would set a "dangerous precedent" with serious implications for the future of smartphone encryption. Apple said the software the FBI asked for could serve as a "master key" able to be used to get information from any iPhone or iPad - including its most recent devices - while the FBI claimed it only wanted access to a single iPhone.

Apple's dispute with the FBI ended on March 28, 2016 after the government found an alternate way to access the data on the iPhone through the help of Israeli firm Cellebrite and withdrew the lawsuit.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.


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Facebook Messenger to Launch on Mac Later This Year

Facebook will launch a new desktop app for Messenger on both macOS and Windows later this year, according to a since-deleted blog post spotted by French blog iGeneration ahead of Facebook's annual F8 developer conference.


A screenshot of the Windows version of the app reveals that it will look rather similar to both Skype and Apple's own Messages app on Mac. Facebook said Messenger Desktop will have many of the same features as the mobile version of the app, including support for group video calls and collaboration.

Facebook is expected to unveil the desktop app alongside several other new Messenger features at its F8 keynote today at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time.


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Facebook to End Messenger Instant Payments Service in UK and France on June 15

Facebook will discontinue its peer-to-peer payments feature for Messenger users in the United Kingdom and France on June 15, the company announced on Tuesday (via TechCrunch).


The social network sent out notices to users of the service in the two countries informing them of the decision, adding that they would continue to be able to make charitable donations through Facebook itself. A note on the company's online help center reads:
"On 15 June 2019, we will discontinue P2P services on Messenger or through Facebook messages for all residents in the UK and France. While you won't be able to exchange money with friends and family, you'll still be able to complete other transactions through Facebook, such as making donations to charitable organisations."
Facebook's Messenger instant payments service originally launched in 2015, but wasn't available to users outside of the United State until November 2017, when it began rolling out in the U.K. It appears that the service will continue to remain active in the U.S. for now, despite the pullback in Europe.

Facebook offered no reason for its decision to end the payments service in the two countries, although the company is reportedly working on its own cryptocurrency that could enable people to send money to each other over the social network.


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Facebook Potentially Planning to Bring Messenger Back to Main Facebook App

Eight years after separating its Messenger service into a standalone app, and five years after removing messaging functionality completely from the central app, Facebook might be gearing up to reintegrate Messenger into the main Facebook app (via The Verge).

The news comes from app researcher Jane Manchun Wong, who found a rudimentary "Chats" section in the Facebook mobile app. Whereas before the Messenger button would cause you to leave Facebook and open the Messenger app, Wong discovered that Facebook appears to be testing a new "Chats" area in the app. As of now, this area only contains basic chat functionalities, and lacks reactions, call support, photo support, and more.



The change follows news that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wants to integrate the company's three messaging services -- Facebook Messenger, Instagram messaging, and WhatsApp -- into one "underlying messaging infrastructure." Each app will continue to exist following this update, but they will become interoperable so that a Facebook user can send an encrypted message to a WhatsApp user, and vice versa.

According to Wong, this means that Facebook will also keep the separate Messenger app around even after it adds chat functionality back into the main Facebook app, because they will "serve different markets."

All of the Facebook messaging services integration is believed to be an effort to keep people within the Facebook ecosystem and away from rival texting apps like Apple's iMessage.


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Mark Zuckerberg Plans to Make Facebook Messenger, Instagram Messaging, and WhatsApp Interoperable

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is planning to integrate three disparate messaging services -- Facebook Messenger, Instagram messaging, and WhatsApp -- into one "underlying messaging infrastructure" (via The New York Times).

Facebook Messenger

These services will continue to operate as their own standalone apps, but the company's work will make them interoperable with one another. This means that a Facebook user could send an encrypted message to someone who only has a WhatsApp account, and vice versa. The company is still in the early stages of the unification, with plans to be finished by the end of 2019 or early 2020.

According to sources familiar with the plans, Zuckerberg's idea is the newest effort to keep people within the Facebook ecosystem, and off of rival texting apps like iMessage.
Mr. Zuckerberg has also ordered all of the apps to incorporate end-to-end encryption, the people said, a significant step that protects messages from being viewed by anyone except the participants in the conversation.

By stitching the apps’ infrastructure together, Mr. Zuckerberg wants to increase the utility of the social network, keeping its billions of users highly engaged inside its ecosystem. If people turn more regularly to Facebook-owned properties for texting, they may forgo rival messaging services, such as those from Apple and Google, said the people, who declined to be identified because the moves are confidential.
In an official statement, Facebook said it's "working on making more of our messaging products end-to-end encrypted and considering ways to make it easier to reach friends and family across networks," alluding to the upcoming change. As of now, WhatsApp is the only one of the three main Facebook messaging apps to support secure end-to-end encrypted text messages, which ensures that texts are only read by you and the person you send them to.

This also raises privacy concerns for Zuckerberg's plans, since it's unclear how an end-to-end encrypted app would integrate with apps like Facebook Messenger. To sign up for WhatsApp, only a phone number is needed, but in contrast personal identities are the central part of apps like Facebook and Instagram, including their messaging services.
Today, WhatsApp requires people to register only a phone number to sign up for the service. By contrast, Facebook and Facebook Messenger ask users to provide their real identities. Matching Facebook and Instagram users to their WhatsApp handles could give pause to those who prefer keeping their use of each app compartmentalized.
In the wake of last year's Cambridge Analytica scandal, internal sources state that Zuckerberg has renewed his focus on WhatsApp and Instagram as the main Facebook brand was hit hard with negativity. In September, Bloomberg reported that Instagram was expected to soon become "more tightly integrated" with Facebook, in the wake of Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger leaving Facebook.

WhatsApp founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton have also left Facebook for similar reasons. According to today's reports, employees are still clashing with Zuckerberg over the new shift in focus to WhatsApp and Instagram, with dozens of WhatsApp employees arguing with Zuckerberg over the upcoming messaging integration plan on internal message boards, as well as during a "contentious" staff meeting last month.

During this meeting, WhatsApp employees reportedly asked Zuckerberg why he was so focused on making the messaging services integration a priority for 2019. According to sources, his responses were "vague" and "meandering," and as a result several WhatsApp employees have left and more are planning to leave because of the plan.


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Facebook Rolling Out Redesigned Messenger App With Simplified Interface and Customizable Chat Bubbles

Facebook today announced that it's rolling out a redesigned, simplified version of the Messenger app on a global basis starting today.

Messenger 4, as Facebook is calling it, will refocus on conversations, making it easier to navigate through the app. Instead of nine separate tabs, there will be three tabs, with conversations quickly accessible through the "Chats" tab. Quick access to the camera for sharing photos and for video chats is also included in the Chats tab.


In the new "People" tab, Messenger users will be able to find friends, see who is active, and watch people's Stories, while the new "Discover" tab will let users find businesses to get deals, play games, follow news stories, and more.

Conversations with people can be customized using color gradients. With color gradients, multiple colors can be used for chat bubbles, and the colors will change as you scroll up and down a conversation.

According to Facebook, the new Messenger app will roll out to customers "over the coming weeks" so not everyone will have access to the refreshed design right away.

In the near future, Facebook also plans to roll out a Dark Mode that will cut down on glare from the phone at night.


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Facebook Fights US Government Demand to Break Messenger Encryption in Criminal Case

Facebook is contesting a demand from the U.S. government that it break the encryption of its popular Messenger app so that law enforcement can listen in to a suspect's conversations as part of an ongoing investigation into the MS-13 gang.

The U.S. Department of Justice's demand is in relation to a case proceeding in a federal court in California that is currently under seal, so public files are unavailable. However, Reuters' sources said the judge in the case heard arguments on Tuesday on a government motion to hold Facebook in contempt of court for refusing to carry out the surveillance request.

Facebook says it can only comply with the government's request if it rewrites the code relied upon by all its users to remove encryption or else hacks the government's current target, according to Reuters.

Legal experts differed over whether the government would likely be able to force Facebook to comply. However, if the government gets its way in the case, experts say the precedent could allow it to make similar arguments to force other tech companies to compromise their encrypted communications services.

Messaging platforms like Signal, Telegram, Facebook's WhatsApp and Apple's iMessage all use end-to-end encryption that prevents communications between sender and recipient from being accessed by anyone else, including the service providers.

Tech companies have pushed back against previous attempts by authorities to break encryption methods, such as the FBI's request that Apple help it hack into the iPhone owned by Syed Farook, one of the shooters in the December 2015 attacks in San Bernardino.

In February 2016, a U.S. federal judge ordered Apple to help the FBI, but Apple opposed the order in an open letter penned by Tim Cook, who said the FBI's request would set a "dangerous precedent" with serious implications for the future of smartphone encryption.

Apple's dispute with the FBI ended on March 28, 2016 after the government found an alternate way to access the data on the iPhone with the help of a private contractor and withdrew the lawsuit.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.


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Facebook Messenger Expanding Chat Translation to All Users in United States and Mexico

Facebook today announced it is expanding chat translation within Messenger to all users in the United States and Mexico.


When you receive a message in a language that is different from your default language in Messenger, Facebook's artificial intelligence assistant M will automatically offer a suggestion to translate the message. When you tap on the suggestion, you will be asked to enable auto-translation. Upon doing so, all future messages received that are not in your default language will be automatically translated.

"This is a meaningful milestone for M Suggestions and will enable people to connect with people they would not be able to communicate with otherwise in a way that is seamless and natural," a Messenger spokesperson said.

Auto-translation is enabled on a per-conversation basis, and all messages are shown in both the original language and translated version. You can opt-out of the feature at any time via the M Settings menu in Messenger, accessible by tapping your profile picture in the top-left corner of the app.

At launch, M can translate from English to Spanish, and vice versa. Facebook plans to add other languages and countries in the future.

Facebook first launched chat translation via M for users of its Marketplace service in the United States in early May. M Suggestions as a whole launched in April 2017, and are now available in 11 countries and five languages.


At its F8 developer conference last month, Facebook previewed an upcoming redesign of Messenger, including a simplified user interface, a dark mode, and customizable chat bubbles. At the time, the company said the facelift will be available "very, very soon," but as of now, the update has yet to be rolled out.

Apple is known to have looked at a similar implementation of Siri in iMessage as M in Messenger. A patent published in 2016 for a "virtual assistant in a communication session" depicts a scenario in which users can invoke Siri from within chat threads to get answers to relevant queries, complete scheduling tasks, and more.


Apple hasn't moved forward with the idea, but it did introduce Siri Shortcuts in iOS 12, enabling users to connect certain third-party apps to Siri to greatly streamline voice controls with app-specific actions.


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Facebook Messenger Update Shown Off in Images: Dark Mode, Simplified UI, and Custom Chat Bubbles

Yesterday during its F8 conference, Facebook announced that an update coming to Messenger would simplify the chat app and reduce the amount of visual clutter that had been added into the user interface over the last few years. The Next Web has shared images of this new update, showing off the cleaned up interface, a dark mode, and more.

Images via The Next Web

The updated Facebook Messenger greatly reduces the number of buttons on the bottom of the screen to just three, and moves the camera and call buttons to the top right of the UI. In the current app, the bottom row has five buttons for Home, People, Camera, Games, and Discover. As The Next Web pointed out, Facebook doesn't appear to be removing any features from Messenger, so anything that appears missing is believed to be combined into another button.


Messenger will still open on a recent chat list, with circles of friends aligning the top of the screen that includes a + button to add to your Messenger Day story, the app's Snapchat clone feature. When you click on a chat, the bottom-screen UI buttons shift to include options for chat bots, the camera, and emoji. In this screen, you'll also be able to customize your chat with various color options and set what appears to be a shortcut to your favorite emoji.


During the keynote on the update, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that the company knows its users want a "simple and fast experience" in a chat app, so it would be "taking this moment to completely redesign Messenger to focus on these ideas." Facebook introduced a pared-down version called Messenger Lite in 2016, but it was only made available for Android devices and has yet to launch on iOS.

For the new update to the iOS Messenger app, Facebook said it's coming "very, very soon." Yesterday, the company also unveiled a "clear history" tool for ads and analytics, showed off a dating feature to rival Tinder, and launched a standalone VR headset "Oculus Go."


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Facebook Messenger Adds New Admin Privileges Amid Backlash Over Company’s Mishandling of User Data

Facebook today announced the rollout of a new feature in Messenger called "Admin Privileges." With this toggled on, the company said that it will give specific users in a group chat "more control" over who partakes in the chat, and should help boost the app's privacy.

If you have admin privileges you'll be able to approve or decline new members before they join the chat, remove members already in a chat, and promote or demote any other person as an admin. The company said that the feature should help large groups who need to get in touch but may not be connected to on Facebook, like for a friend's surprise party.


There are also new joinable links that any member can create and send out to potential new members, which an admin will then be able to approve. These admin privileges will be turned off by default:
The great thing about admin privileges in Messenger is they work in the background; if your group chat doesn’t need that level of control, it won’t get in the way of your group messaging. You’ll have the option to decide if you’d like admin approval for approving new members, but this preference is off by default in your group chat settings.
Today's Facebook Messenger update launches at the same time that Facebook is facing immense scrutiny for its involvement with consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, which itself has been tied to President Trump's 2016 election campaign. According to recent reports, the firm improperly amassed information from 50 million Facebook users without their consent and used that data to "target messages to voters."

In the wake of these reports, investigations have been opened into Facebook's actions and several politicians have asked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify about the events. A new "#DeleteFacebook" campaign has now launched on Twitter, which WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton took part in. Facebook owns WhatsApp, but Acton left the company earlier in 2018 to start his own non-profit organization.

A Facebook spokesperson mentioned that the company was "deceived" by Cambridge Analytica and didn't know about its actions. One Facebook shareholder, Fan Yuan, has filed a lawsuit against the company alleging it had some knowledge of Cambridge Analytica's data siphoning and made "materially false and/or misleading" claims regarding the company's handling of user data.
“The entire company is outraged we were deceived,” the statement continued. “We are committed to vigorously enforcing our policies to protect people’s information and will take whatever steps are required to see that this happens.”
As the scandal continues to grow, the Federal Trade Commission has also begun looking into whether Facebook potentially "violated an agreement with the agency." Zuckerberg has yet to comment on the issue.

Back in January, Facebook announced a series of privacy-focused updates, which were planned for a rollout ahead of a May 25 deadline for compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation in the EU. At the time, Facebook also revealed a new overhaul for the news feed that would favor friends and family posts over publishers. Zuckerberg said that this update would lessen the time its users spend on Facebook, but cause the time to "be more valuable."

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.


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