How to enable Facebook Messenger end-to-end encryption

Bradley Wint
Oct 5, 2016 12:27am AST
Photo: Bradley Wint/Try Modern

If you haven’t heard by now, Facebook has quietly rolled out end-to-end encryption within its Messenger app, similar to that used on WhatsApp and iMessage.

Oddly enough, the feature is disabled by default, and enabling it is a bit cumbersome. However it seems that automatic encryption like what is offered on WhatsApp isn’t possible at this time because of the implementation required across the different chat platforms.

As everyone knows, Facebook Messenger can be used to communicate with your friends on your Facebook list using a mobile device. The same chats can also be managed via the Messages function if you’re viewing Facebook via a PC or mobile web Facebook.

As the encryption option only works with mobile devices (running the latest version of Messenger), Facebook can’t automatically convert all chats to an encrypted state, as it would require desktop versions of the chat to also be encrypted. As the Messages option is so deeply tied into the rest of Facebook’s general functionality, I doubt we will be seeing encryption across platforms any time soon.

The encryption option only works with individual chats for the moment, which means that all group chats still are at risk of being exposed should the feds want your chat logs about shutting down 4chan. You cannot encrypt chat conversations with Pages either.

GIFs are also not supported, but it appears that Facebook Stickers are still functional.

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How to enable Messenger encryption

Encryption has to be enabled on a chat by chat basis. First, you’ll need to go into the individual chat and select the menu option. Once you’re in the details section, you should see the Secret Conversations options close to the bottom.


When you click that option, you’ll be taken to a new chat page with a black/white/gray color scheme with confirmation that your chat is encrypted.

Once you start chatting, the little icon at the bottom of the display picture then changes from the Messenger lightning rod to a black padlock, indicating that that particular chat is secured.

These chats are separate from the unsecured conversations (even with the same person), and cannot be accessed via desktop messages.

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