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Meta Takes Next Steps in Messaging Encryption Push, with New E2E Features on Messenger and Instagram

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Meta Takes Next Steps in Messaging Encryption Push, with New E2E Features on Messenger and Instagram

Despite ongoing protests from various law enforcement groups and policy-makers around the world, Meta is pushing ahead with its plan to implement end-to-end encryption by default in all of its messaging apps, with the company today announcing that it’s testing a new secure storage process for backups of your end-to-end encrypted chats on Messenger, along with a range of other expanded encryption tests on Messenger and Instagram.

The main update is the addition of E2E encrypted chat back-ups for Messenger chats.

As explained by Meta:

“Your message history is important, and end-to-end encrypted Messenger conversations are currently stored on your device. With that in mind, we’re testing secure storage to back up those messages in case you lose your phone or want to restore your message history on a new, supported device.

The process will see your messages stored in an encrypted server, which will only be accessible via PIN or a code generator. Meta has also reiterated that it won’t be able to access these messages, in line with encryption standards, which will enable secure back-ups of your chats, that you can then access from any device.

That could make it much easier when switching devices, while it will also move Messenger in closer parity to WhatsApp, which is the ultimate end goal of Meta’s broader messaging integration plan. Once the functionalities of all of its messaging platforms are in alignment, Meta will then be able to facilitate full cross-app messaging, and universally accessible inboxes, which could help to maximize its messaging tools.

In addition to this, Meta’s also rolling out automatic encryption of chats for some users.

“If you’re in the test group, some of your most frequent chats may be automatically end-to-end encrypted, which means you won’t have to opt in to the feature. You’ll still have access to your message history, but any new messages or calls with that person will be end-to-end encrypted.”

Messenger encryption

Which is a significant step in Meta’s broader messaging encryption plan, removing the opt-in element, and shifting people across to the more secure process, whether you want to or not.

Meta’s also testing new encrypted features, like ‘unsend messages’, the capacity to reply to Facebook Stories, and new ways to access your end-to-end encrypted messages and calls.

“For example, we plan to bring end-to-end encrypted calls to the Calls Tab on Messenger. End-to-end encrypted chats are also going hands-free with Ray-Ban Stories (English-only). That means, if you have an existing end-to-end encrypted chat with someone, sending a hands-free message on Messenger for Ray-Ban Stories will be end-to-end encrypted.

Meta’s also taking steps to expand its messaging encryption tools on Instagram, with an expanded test of opt-in encryption for Direct chats.

“Last year, we started a limited test of opt-in end-to-end encrypted messages and calls on Instagram, and in February we broadened the test to include adults in Ukraine and Russia. Soon, we’ll expand the test even further to include people in more countries and add more features like group chats.

Meta says that its initial test was only available to adults, but this new expansion will be made available to everyone.

“If you’re in the test group, you’ll see a prompt asking if you want to start an end-to-end encrypted chat, and a reminder of how to report messages.

It’s the next stage in Meta’s broader messaging integration, which, as noted, continues to raise the ire of various law enforcement groups, who say that more encryption will only serve to protect criminals that operate within Meta’s apps.

The Home Office in the UK has been one of the most vocal opponents to Meta’s encryption plans, with the watchdog sending an open letter, co-signed by the ‘Five Eyes’ countries (along with India and Japan), back in October 2020, which urged the tech industry to provide ‘lawful access’ to encrypted communications for criminal investigations. Earlier this year, the UK government hired M&C Saatchi to create a media campaign to help amplify opposition to Meta’s end-to-end encryption plans, which highlighted the risks of child exploitation as a result of such protections.

Yet, there is also a counter perspective, with a report from the UK Information Commissioner finding that encrypting communications actually strengthens online safety for children “by reducing their exposure to threats such as blackmail, while also allowing businesses to share information securely”.

It’s not a definitive argument, and Meta’s leaning more into user privacy, which is largely in line with broader shifts around data protections and choice, which are being embedded in law in various regions.

These new updates are another step in that direction, which is still subject to debate and disagreement in various quarters.

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Twitter’s Cancelling Free Access to its API, Which Will Shut Down Hundreds of Apps

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Twitter’s Cancelling Free Access to its API, Which Will Shut Down Hundreds of Apps

Well, this is certainly problematic.

Twitter has announced that, as of February 9th, it’s cutting off free access to its API, which is the access point that many, many apps, bot accounts, and other tools use to function.

That means that a heap of Twitter analytics apps, management tools, schedulers, automated updates – a range of key info and insight options will soon cease to function. Which seems like the sort of thing that, if you were Twitter, you’d want to keep on your app.

But that’s not really how Twitter 2.0 is looking to operate – in a bid to rake in as much revenue as absolutely possible, in any way that it can, Twitter will now look to charge all of these apps and tools. But most, I’d hazard a guess, will simply cease to function.

The bigger business apps already pay for full API access – your Hootsuite’s and your Sprout Social’s – so they’ll likely be unaffected. But it could stop them from offering free plans, which would have a big impact on their business models.

The announcement follows Twitter’s recent API change which cut off a heap of Twitter posting tools, in order, seemingly, to stop users accessing the platform through a third-party UI. 

Now, even more Twitter tools will go extinct, a broad spread of apps and functions that contribute to the real-time ecosystem that Twitter has become. Their loss, if that’s what happens, will have big impacts on overall Twitter activity.

On the other hand, some will see this as another element in Twitter’s crackdown on bots, which Twitter chief Elon Musk has made a personal mission to eradicate. Musk has taken some drastic measures to kill off bots, some of which are having an impact, but Musk himself has also admitted that such efforts are reducing overall platform engagement

This, too, could be a killer in this respect

It’ll also open the door to Twitter competitors, as many automated update apps will switch to other platforms. This relates to things like updates on downtime from video games, weather apps, and more. There are also tools like GIF generators and auto responders – there’s a range of tools that could now look for a new home on Mastodon, or some other Twitter replicant. 

In this respect, it seems like a flawed move, which is also largely ignorant of how the developer community has facilitated Twitter’s growth. 

But Elon and Co. are going to do things their own way, whether outside commentators agree or not – and maybe this is actually a path to gaining new Twitter data customers, and boosting the company’s income. 

But I doubt it.

If there are any third-party Twitter apps that you use, it’ll be worth checking in to see if they’re impacted before next week.



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Meta ‘Year of Efficiency’ call from Zuckerberg was what Street needed

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Meta 'Year of Efficiency' call from Zuckerberg was what Street needed

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer of Meta Platforms Inc., center, departs from federal court in San Jose, Calif., on Dec. 20, 2022.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

With one simple slogan, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg temporarily quelled investor discontent with his company’s multibillion-dollar investment into the futuristic metaverse.

“Our management theme for 2023 is the ‘Year of Efficiency’ and we’re focused on becoming a stronger and more nimble organization,” Zuckerberg said as part of the release of Meta’s fourth-quarter earnings report.

Following a 64% plunge in Meta’s share price in 2022, Wall Street cheered the report, sending the stock up almost 20%, extending a rally that began late last year. Based on after-hours pricing, Meta is trading at its highest since July.

Growth is not what’s getting investors excited. Meta reported better-than-expected revenue in the fourth quarter, but sales still sank 4% from a year earlier, marking the third straight quarterly decline. And the forecast range for the first quarter suggests that year-over-year revenue could increase, but it could also fall again.

Rather, Zuckerberg’s commitment to cost cuts and efficiency is a sign that increasing profitability is important to Meta, which was known as a growth machine prior to last year’s slump.

“The first 18 years I think we grew it 20%, 30% compound or a lot more every year,” Zuckerberg said on the earnings call. “And then obviously that changed very dramatically in 2022, where our revenue was negative for growth, for the first time in the company’s history.”

In looking to the future, Zuckerberg struck a realistic tone.

“We don’t anticipate that that’s going to continue,” he said, regarding the recent drop in revenue. “But I also don’t think it’s going to go back to the way it was before.”

Meta lowered its estimates for total expenses in 2023 to be in the range of $89 billion to $95 billion, down from its prior outlook of $94 billion to $100 billion. In November, the company announced it would lay off over 11,000 workers, or 13% of its staff.

Zuckerberg said Meta will be more “proactive on cutting projects that aren’t performing or may no longer be crucial” and that it will emphasize “removing layers of middle management to make decisions faster.”

Meta is also reducing spending as it builds new data centers that are intended to be more efficient while still able to power the company’s various artificial intelligence technologies. Capital expenditures are now expected to be in the range of $30 billion to $33 billion for 2023 instead of $34 billion to $37 billion.

Zuckerberg is selling investors on a story they want to hear, acknowledging that the company got bloated and needed more financial discipline. One of Zuckerberg’s top deputies, technology chief Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, wrote a personal essay just a few days ago echoing that sentiment.

Still, Meta has plenty of challenges ahead, in terms of both costs and reviving its core ad business.

Meta’s Reality Labs unit, which is responsible for developing the nascent metaverse, lost $13.7 billion in 2022. Finance chief Susan Li told analysts that the company isn’t planning for any reduction in that unit anytime soon. Zuckerberg still sees it as the company’s future.

Digital advertising, meanwhile, is suffering from a struggling economy, and Li gave no indication that companies are planning to dramatically increase their spending in 2023.

Meta has also yet to recover from Apple’s 2021 iOS privacy update that made it harder to target users with ads. Li said the company has been improving its online advertising system, but Apple’s update is “still certainly an absolute headwind to our revenue number.”

During the question and answer part of the call, Zuckerberg was asked about Meta’s progress in generative artificial intelligence, which has become the latest hot thing in Silicon Valley. His answer indicated that Meta is pursuing opportunities there, but will be cautious in how quickly it proceeds. Running these programs is expensive, and Meta needs to ensure it can develop them affordably, he said.

Zuckerberg said that while Meta is researching how best to incorporate the new technology, he wants “to be careful not to get too ahead of the development of it.”

Correction: Meta’s earnings report and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s comments occurred after the market close on Wednesday. An earlier version misstated the day.

WATCH: Meta grows in daily active users, shares pop on revenue beat

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Pinterest Focuses on Travel Inspiration and Education for Black History Month

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Pinterest Focuses on Travel Inspiration and Education for Black History Month

Pinterest is taking a unique approach to Black History Month, with a new ‘Find Your Routes’ Black Travel Hub initiative, which aims to highlight places that have strong connections to Black history, while also showcasing Black-owned businesses.

As explained by Pinterest:

“Find Your Routes” is inspired by The Negro Motorist Green Book aka “The Green Book”. The Green Book was a guidebook for Black travelers during the Jim Crow era that provided a list of accessible hotels, boarding houses, taverns, restaurants, service stations and other establishments throughout the country that served Black Americans patrons.”

The Black Travel Hub, which you can find here, will present a range of travel options, along with their history, with creators from the US, Colombia, Jamaica, Brazil and more, all taking part in presenting their city.

It could be a good way to provide education alongside inspiration in the app, while also helping people to connect, and support highlighted communities.

Pinterest will also be showcasing Black-owned businesses on Pinterest TV, while internally, it’s also hosting a company-wide event ‘to help employees gain knowledge about the history, present, and future of Black travel through the lens of Black Pinployees’.

As noted, it could be a good way to both spark important conversations, and inspire new travel journeys, which include an extra level of cultural understanding and education, along with a leisure break.

It’s an interesting take on the celebration either way, and it’ll be worth noting what sort of reaction the initiative gets, and whether it inspires more travel as a result.

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