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Facebook is testing encrypted, self-destructing messages

David Marcus, Facebook Vice President of Messaging Products, watches a display showing new features of Messenger during the keynote address at the F8 Facebook Developer Conference Tuesday, April 12, 2016, in San Francisco. Facebook says people who use its Messenger chat service will soon be able to order flowers, request news articles and talk with businesses by sending them direct text messages. At its annual conference for software developers, Zuckerberg said the company is releasing new tools that businesses can use to build "chat bots," or programs that talk to customers in conversational language. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
AP Photo/Eric Risberg
This message will self-destruct in 60 seconds.
By Alice Truong
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Facebook, a social network where oversharing is highly encouraged, wants the 900 million users of its Messenger chat app to know it’s serious about privacy, too.

The company said today that it’s testing self-destructing messages with end-to-end encryption, an offering that will be rolled out later this summer. These so-called “secret conversations” will let senders set a timer for how long messages remain visible.

The news comes three months after WhatsApp, another Facebook-owned chat app, added end-to-end encryption for its billion-plus users. With end-to-end encryption, messages can’t be read by Facebook or any other third parties. In the event of a subpoena, Facebook would simply say it has no chat logs to hand over to authorities.

Facebook is going a step further with Messenger by adding Snapchat-esque ephemerality. Secret conversations are device specific, so the messages won’t be pushed to all the devices a person accesses Facebook on. Users will have to designate a device to receive secret conversations.

According to TechCrunch, encryption won’t be turned on for users by default. The company says that’s because rich content, like GIFs and videos, and other Messenger features aren’t supported in secret conversations.

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