A Nebraska woman and her 17-year-old daughter are facing felony and misdemeanor charges for allegedly performing an abortion after 20 weeks, long illegal in the state, and hiding a body. Law enforcement gathered evidence for the allegations this week, in part by requesting data from the Meta company, ordering the company to hand over the 17-year-old girl’s Messenger chats, reports the Lincoln Daily Star and Motherboard show.
While Meta complied with a legitimate court order, the company could not provide these chats if participants used end-to-end encryption, a feature that Meta has long promised to turn on by default for all users. Meanwhile, in a move that Meta says is completely unrelated, the social media giant announced this morning that it is testing an extension to end-to-end encrypted messages on Messenger.
Since 2016, the company has promised to deploy the privacy feature across the board by default. CEO Mark Zuckerberg even pledged in 2019 to implement end-to-end encryption across all of its chat apps. But the company has faced technical and political challenges that have delayed a full rollout year after year, forcing Meta to turn to incremental, incremental steps. The social giant currently says it’s moving toward a global rollout of end-to-end encryption for personal information and calls by default in 2023.
For now, though, the company continued its slow march today, saying it’s testing a new set of features and initiatives related to encryption. This week, Meta Inc. will expand the number of automatically end-to-end encrypted chats between certain people. This means that these users will not have to opt-in to enable protection. Likewise, the company says it will soon expand the number of users who can opt for end-to-end encryption on Instagram Direct Messenger.
Starting this week, Meta is also testing a “safe storage” feature for end-to-end encrypted chats, so users can back up their information in case they lose their device or get a new one and want to restore their chat history. The secure backup feature will be the default feature for end-to-end encrypted chats on Messenger, with the option to lock backups with a PIN or a generated code, the company said. Users can also choose not to use backup and turn off the feature.