Facebook introduced on Thursday it will begin testing end-to-end encryption as the default possibility for some customers of its Messenger app on Android and iOS.

The event comes as the corporate is dealing with backlash for handing over messages to a Nebraska police division that aided the division in submitting fees towards a teen and her mom for allegedly conducting an unlawful abortion.

Facebook messenger customers presently should choose in to make their messages end-to-end encrypted (E2E), a mechanism that theoretically permits solely the sender and recipient of a message to entry its content material.

However had all Facebook messages been encrypted by default again in June when Nebraska police issued a search warrant for Facebook person information of the mom investigated within the case, Facebook wouldn’t have messages at hand over to police within the first place.

Facebook spokesperson Alex Dziedzan mentioned on Thursday that E2E encryption is a posh function to implement and that the check is proscribed to a few hundred customers for now in order that the corporate can make sure the system is working correctly.

Dziedzan additionally mentioned the transfer was “not a response to any regulation enforcement requests”.

Meta, Facebook’s mother or father firm, mentioned it had deliberate to roll out the check for months. The corporate had beforehand introduced plans to make E2E encryption the default in 2022 however pushed the date again to 2023.

An affidavit in assist of the search warrant within the Nebraska case exhibits {that a} Norfolk police division detective requested Facebook in June for the “profile contact info, wall postings, and good friend itemizing, with Facebook IDs” of the mom. Authorities additionally requested all of her pictures and personal messages from April to the day the warrant was issued.

The extent of the person information Facebook ended up handing over isn’t clear, however personal messages between the ladies discussing easy methods to receive abortion capsules got to police by Facebook, based on the Lincoln Journal Star.

Consultants beforehand informed the Guardian that the principle manner for tech corporations to keep away from aiding in abortion-related prosecutions is to not retailer or acquire the info in any respect.

“The one manner for corporations like Facebook to meaningfully shield folks is for them to make sure that they don’t have entry to person information or communications when a regulation enforcement company comes knocking,” Evan Greer, the director of the digital rights group Battle for the Future, mentioned. “Increasing end-to-end encryption by default is part of that, however corporations like Facebook additionally must cease accumulating and retaining a lot intimate details about us within the first place.”

The Nebraska case illustrates that some tech corporations’ focus on limiting or deleting abortion-specific person information in response to privateness issues might not be an efficient technique.

Facebook this week mentioned that the warrant it obtained didn’t point out that the investigation was abortion-related.

Sadly that is as many privateness specialists projected, that authorized information requests are usually not going to return by neatly labeled as being for abortion. They’ll be for stillbirths, homicide, drug trafficking, and all the opposite wild nonsensical fees they throw at folks. https://t.co/QJk2XwYVDH

— Don’t publish about crimes. (@KateRoseBee) August 10, 2022

As Kate Rose, who works on privateness and abortion entry on the Digital Protection Fund, tweeted, “authorized information requests are usually not going to return by neatly labeled as being for abortion”.

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