Once the FBI is done with WhatsApp it may shift its encryption crosshairs to Facebook Messenger, if a new ‘secret conversations’ feature is rolled out. But secret chats are not the only thing that Facebook has planned for Messenger: evidence has also been found in Messenger’s source code that points to the arrival of secure mobile payments.
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The Information claims to have seen source code that outlines the new features, although as with all things source code, they could simply be remnants rather than breadcrumbs. If Facebook Messenger were to add encrypted messaging to its default messaging app, it would join WhatsApp in providing end-to-end encryption for chats.
This would reverse Messenger’s current method of only encrypting messages between the user’s device and Facebook’s server, where they can easily be retrieved and handed over to law enforcement upon request.
Considering Facebook famously co-operated with the government’s PRISM domestic spying program, this would be a big turnaround and one that might find the company on what the government sees as the wrong side of the encryption debate currently being waged against the likes of Apple and WhatsApp.
Likewise, if Facebook Messenger were to add an in-store payment feature like Android Pay or Apple Pay it would instantly become a major player in the world of mobile payments, but it may well anger Google and Apple. Facebook’s motivation is obvious – to secure more information on your buying habits and preferences for certain stores – but the incentives it might offer to get that information are unclear.
While there is scant little information on the new features, adding mobile payments and end-to-end encryption on chats would definitely make Messenger worth revisiting. As Samsung Pay, Android Pay and Apple Pay continue to roll out and apps like Telegram and WhatsApp are regularly in the news because of their stance on encryption, Facebook Messenger might soon appear in those same conversations.
Would you use a mobile payment service offered by Facebook? Should Messenger offer encryption?