Following in the footsteps of WhatsApp, Facebook is now testing the encryption of messages through a service it’s called “Secret Conversation”. This is in part in response to competition from its rivals who already offer this service, coupled with the recent incidents of social networks being used to “see” messages between sender/receiver.
Whilst testing is on a limited basis, Facebook plans to roll the feature out towards the end of summer/early autumn.
The system works by providing the key to the encrypted data only to the end device you are communicating with. Thus only the recipient of the communication can unlock the data. One of the other features that will be added is the ability to “tombstone” aspects of the chat. In other words, you will be able to set a duration for how long that aspect of the conversation is visible. So you could start a chat, then go “secret” for part of it and that part would disappear after a set period of time.
There are a number of minor downsides. Communication that occurs within the “Secret Conversation” context will not be visible to other devices that the person owns. This again is due to the key being given to the end device at the time of the conversation. Hence why the “Secret Conversation” is optional to the user, as some people like the seamless nature of having devices that share communications history.