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How to enable end-to-end encryption for Facebook Messenger chats

Here's how to enable end-to-end encryption on a per-chat basis with Facebook Messenger.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer on
Facebook messenger app closeup.
Shutterstock

Recently, I was chatting with someone via Facebook Messenger on MacOS when I received a warning that the messages couldn't be encrypted in Safari and I should use a different browser or the Facebook Messenger app. 

Naturally, this piqued my curiosity. I was using the latest version of Safari on the latest version of MacOS Monterey. I checked the official Facebook page on what browsers were supported for end-to-end encryption and, sure enough, Safari was on the list along with Chrome and Firefox. 

However, there's a caveat. 

Although both Chrome and Firefox support end-to-end encrypted chats on facebook.com, Safari only supports end-to-end encryption when using messenger.com. 

Also: What's the most popular web browser

This struck me as odd because Safari on facebook.com offers the option for the encryption of individual chats.

So, what gives? Even after clicking to enable end-to-end encryption in Safari on facebook.com, it indicates that the chat is encrypted.

Is this a case of mistaken identity, or is Facebook not aware that the feature does in fact work in Safari on both facebook.com and messenger.com?

Either way, I want to offer you a few options so you can be sure your Facebook chats are covered with end-to-end encryption.

But first… why bother?

What is end-to-end encryption?

Essentially, end-to-end encryption adds another layer of security to your messenger chats. When you enable E2E encryption, only you and anyone involved in the chat can see the communication. That means anything you say cannot be intercepted by a third party and used against you. 

For anyone serious about security and privacy, E2E encryption should be an absolute must, even with something as simple as a Facebook chat.

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that E2E encryption on Facebook Messenger, via a web browser, is done on a chat-by-chat basis. By default, at least within your web browser, all chats do not employ E2E encryption, so you have to enable it manually. If, on the other hand, you're using the Messenger app, all chats have E2E enabled by default.

Also: The best encrypted messaging apps

How to enable E2E encryption in your web browser

How do you do that? Let me show you.

Requirements

Instead of using your web browser for Facebook Messenger chats, you should always opt to use the Messenger app. Of course, if you're on a mobile device, you are more than likely using the Messenger app anyway. However, if you're on a desktop or laptop, you're most likely using a web browser, which means your chats do not use E2E encryption. 

For MacOS, you can install the Facebook Messenger app from within the App Store. For Windows, you can download the installer file and have the app running in no time. If you're on Linux, unfortunately, you're out of luck, as there is no Facebook Messenger desktop app (which is ironic, given how much open-source software Facebook depends on). However, on Linux, you can enable end-to-end encryption on a chat-by-chat basis in facebook.com in both Firefox and Chrome.

To reiterate, if you use the Facebook Messenger app, all of your chats make use of E2E encryption. If you use a supported web browser, you have to enable it on a per-chat basis.

Also: How to encrypt your email and why you should

1. Log in to Facebook

Open your web browser and go to either facebook.com or messenger.com.

2. Open a chat and enable E2E encryption

Open a chat on Facebook. Once the chat is open, open the Chat Settings drop-down by clicking the name of the person you're chatting with at the top of the chat popup. You should see a pop-up menu, where you can then click Start end-to-end encrypted chat. 

The Facebook Messenger chat settings popup menu.

Enabling E2E encryption for a Facebook Messenger chat.

Image: Jack Wallen

And that's all there is to making use of Facebook end-to-end encryption to ensure the privacy and security of your discussions. Although this won't prevent passersby from reading your chats, it will ensure they cannot be intercepted by a third party and used against you.

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