Facebook’s message encryption was built to fail
The details are creepy. Police raid a house, a teenager and her mother are arrested, fetal remains unearthed from a rural burial ground. When police pulled out a 17-year-old Nebraska girl and charged her and her mother with a miscarriage and suicide, they equip damn documentation they are only accessible through Meta’s incompetence and cooperation.
The intimate conversation between the mother and daughter in the days surrounding the alleged abortion is just one of the millions of people who log into Facebook every day, but for this family, it would be horrible. After the police obtained a wanted warrant for the girl’s Facebook data, they used the information the company provided to obtain a second search warrant to raid her home. The app for that command includes quotes from the couple’s Messenger conversation, such as “Shall we start it today?” and “Ya the 1st pill blocks hormones…you have to wait 24 hours HR 2 take the other pill.” Perhaps most damning, the comment concludes: “Remember we burn evidence.”
A search warrant asks for probable cause, concrete evidence to show that law enforcement will be able to gather more evidence at the place being searched. In this case, the police were able to prove the value of searching the girl’s home, in part because of the records they received from Facebook. That second command allowing them to not only search the family’s home but also collect any electronic devices, medications, and other records. The mother and daughter are currently facing criminal charges.
In this case, like many others, Facebook was an early target for an investigation. This popular platform is relied upon by billions of users across the globe, a repository of countless fleeting thoughts and self-incriminations. While users know that anything they post publicly on Facebook is visible to the world, including to law enforcement, Messenger creates a false sense of privacy. private. Currently, the majority of messages are unencrypted, visible to Meta employees and anyone with a valid command. And that’s by design — Facebook built its message encryption feature, but it didn’t work out.
In the aftermath afterward Dobbs decide, Zuckerberg promised staff that Meta will use encryption to “keep everyone safe.” But the reality is it doesn’t do anything. While an investigation in this Nebraska was started before Dobbs the decision is made, after-Roe Abortion policy will only accelerate, along with the increasing number of orders against Meta.
Currently, Messenger supports encryption, but only if the user opts in. This isn’t an easy, one-time transition—it’s a difficult process for every person you communicate with. And once you manage to opt-in to this “secret conversation” feature, Facebook creates a new message thread, meaning you break down your messaging history and split every chat or group into two. It was a huge mess.
Worse yet, opt-in to encrypted chats now do nothing to protect messages from the past months and years. Meta has created so many barriers that most messages will be completely exposed. And even with encryption set up, it’s easy to accidentally revert to unencrypted chats. Considering the Meta is built on dark models and the subtle use of highly engineered products to shape user behavior, it’s clear that the company doesn’t really want user conversations. encrypted.