- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 18, 2017

An updated version of Facebook’s widely successful Messenger app now lets users of the world’s largest social network to communicate privately across multiple devices, Facebook said Thursday.

While Facebook began last year letting its billion-plus users chat over Messenger using end-to-end encryption — a communication method that uses cryptographic keys to scramble and safeguard digital data — the initial deployment of Facebook’s so-called “Secret Conversations” feature only worked until now on one device per user.

In a blog post Thursday, Facebook said the “Secret Conversations” feature now works between devices, meaning users who update their app will be able to initiate an encrypted chat on their smartphone or tablet, then carry-on those conversations from a different devices.

“When we originally announced secret conversations in July of last year, they were available on one device per user. People can now access their secret conversations via multiple devices, for example when they upgrade or lose a device. Sending videos will soon be supported, too,” the post said.

Facebook referred The Washington Times to a white paper containing the technical specifications involving “Secret Conversation” when reached for further comment Thursday.

About 1.2 billion Facebook account holders were considered monthly Messenger users as of April 2017, up from 200 million only three years earlier. Both Messenger and a separate chat application owned by Facebook, WhatsApp, provide users with the option of communicating with end-to-end encryption, the likes of which makes it more difficult for eavesdroppers, hackers and even authorized third-parties to intercept conversations.

Testifying on Capitol Hill before his abrupt termination as FBI director this month, James B. Comey recently said an increasing number of federal investigations are becoming hindered as companies like Apple and Google continue to incorporate strong encryption into their widely sold smartphones in addition to the availability of free chat applications such as Facebook’s Messenger and WhatsApp.

“The shadow created by the problem we call going dark continues to fall across more of our work,” Mr. Comey said.

“I don’t know yet how the new administration intends to approach it, but it’s something we have to talk about,” Mr. Comey continued. “I care a lot about privacy. I also care an awful lot about public safety. There continues to be a huge collision between those two things we care about.”

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