This Facebook News Gives You No Excuse to Not Use Encrypted Texting

Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp now have a billion monthly users -- each.

Getty Images / Justin Sullivan

There’s no longer a good excuse not to give secure communications tools a shot.

Facebook announced earlier today that Messenger now has more than 1 billion monthly users — “making Messenger one of only a handful of apps worldwide that touch so many lives,” the post declares. That’s more than a billion people who will soon be able to take advantage of end-to-end encryption — where only the communicating parties can read the messages — without having to install or set up anything on their own.

Facebook’s Messenger doesn’t offer that feature right now, but Facebook announced on July 8 that it’s testing end-to-end encryption with a small number of users, and that it plans to make the feature available to more people this summer.

Combined with the addition of end-to-end encryption to WhatsApp in April, this means that Facebook is by far the largest provider of end-to-end encrypted messaging tools in the entire world.

Plus, you don’t have to worry that Facebook is rolling its own crypto. Both Messenger and WhatsApp use the established Signal protocol, which is also popular among activists, to encrypt their messages.

Messenger and WhatsApp also have the benefit of being cross-platform (Whatsapp also has a desktop version). Existing tools like Apple’s iMessage only work on specific devices, while something like Gmail requires setting up complicated add-ons, and even the Signal app requires you to convince the people you want to message that they should install the app. I tried that myself earlier this year. I got one person to use Signal consistently. Everyone else, including my wife, didn’t even bother switching from iMessage.

This means it’s easier than ever to maintain the privacy of your conversations. You don’t have to install a new app; fuss around with the public and private keys that allow for encrypted communications over email; or try to talk anyone else into using the same tool you’re using. You just have to use the apps you already use.

Well, that’s true on WhatsApp, anyway. Messenger will require its users to go through the extra step of starting a “secret conversation” whenever they want to use end-to-end encryption on the service. But that’s a small complaint when compared to just how much easier it is to use encryption than ever before.

So go ahead and give encrypted messaging a try. There’s no reason not to, and if you don’t want your messages to be vulnerable to either intelligence agencies or intrepid hackers, there’s a pretty good reason to at least test it. It’s free, it’s simple, and, once Facebook is done testing, it will be available to 2 billion people.