Facebook Messenger flips the switch on encryption for everyone

Now everyone can encrypt their Facebook Messenger chats

Facebook just finished upgrading Messenger with one of the biggest features to ever come to the app - fully encrypted messaging between devices.

Called "Secret Conversations," Messenger's encryption feature has been quietly rolling out on iOS and Android devices, with Wired reporting that the process has just now been completed. That means nearly 900 million users are now covered with totally secure messaging, provided they all have the latest version of the app.

In addition to encrypting missives sent between devices, Secret Conversations can also put Mission: Impossible-style self-destruct timers on messages, ensuring that particularly sensitive material (Netflix passwords, anyone?) are deleted forever after as long as a day to even just 5 seconds after being opened.

There are a few limitations that come with Secret Conversations, however. Initiating the feature disables .gifs, videos, voice messages, voice calling, and mobile payments. What's more, it only works one-on-one, ruling out incognito group chats for the time being.

So secret, you probably missed it

While encryption is certainly a welcome feature on Messenger, it's not a particularly visible one.

To activate Secret Conversations, one must start a new message thread and press the discreetly placed "Secret" button on the top-right of the screen when choosing a recipient.

As of writing, there is no way to start Secret Conversations as a default, or convert an existing chat with a friend into an encrypted one.

Encryption, which can prevent unwanted eyes from snooping in on your messages - be it criminals, companies, or even intelligence agencies - has become a new trend for messaging services in the past year.

Chat-app bigwig WhatsApp made some of the biggest pushes for privacy this past spring, when the app completely encrypted any and all messages sent by its over 1 billion users.

Google's recently released competitor, Allo, also offers an Incognito Mode to encrypt messages, though it must be turned on manually, like Secret Conversations.

While it's not very self-serving to hide Secret Conversations off in a corner, we appreciate Messenger striking a balance between privacy over chatbots and allowing users to send messages to their friends that even Facebook can't peep in on.

Parker Wilhelm
Parker Wilhelm is a freelance writer for TechRadar. He likes to tinker in Photoshop and talk people's ears off about Persona 4.