Instagram is testing a VERY controversial new feature that police want to ban

INSTAGRAM appears to be entering the final stages of its controversial plan to encrypt messages on its platform.

A screenshot shared online on Tuesday showed a screenshot of the new feature in action on an Instagram account based in India.

A screenshot showing an early version of Instagram's end-to-end encrypted chats, which are expected to roll out later this year


A screenshot showing an early version of Instagram’s end-to-end encrypted chats, which are expected to roll out later this yearPhoto credit: Instagram

Some users in the South Asian country can now enable end-to-end encryption in their IG Direct chats as part of ongoing tests.

The change, which is expected to be fully rolled out next year, masks messages so only the sender and recipient can read them.

Even Meta, the company that owns Instagram, is blocked from showing the content of people’s chats.

It’s a move some have touted as a victory for user privacy, while police have branded it a “free pass” for crooks.

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That’s because encryption would prevent security services from gaining access to other people’s messages.

Meta last month announced the expansion of its end-to-end encryption testing.

“Last year we launched a limited trial of opt-in end-to-end encrypted messages and calls on Instagram, and in February we expanded the trial to include adults in Ukraine and Russia,” the firm said.

“Soon we will expand the test even more to include people in more countries and add more features like group chats.”

The company recently delayed its plans to introduce encryption until 2023 after child safety activists warned its proposals would protect child molesters from detection.

The UK’s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) has said private messaging is the “front line of child sexual abuse online”.

Messages sent via Meta owned WhatsApp are already encrypted and the feature is optional for Facebook Messenger.

However, the privacy tool is not yet available to everyone on Instagram.

In 2019, the company promised to “merge” the behind-the-scenes messaging technology that powers Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram.

The idea is for users to message each other across platforms. For example, a WhatsApp user could seamlessly chat with an Instagrammer.

This would also mean encrypting messages sent across all platforms – and not just WhatsApp.

End-to-end encryption means your message is garbled into gibberish during transmission and can only be read in its true form by the sender and recipient.

Because the contacts involved in the chat each have a “key” that decrypts the message.

Anyone else (including Meta) cannot read the ciphertext.

It’s an important privacy feature and already one of WhatsApp’s defining features.

Last year, MI5 chief Ken McCallum blasted Meta’s encryption plans for what he said gave criminals a “free pass”.

“Decisions made in California boardrooms are just as relevant to our ability to do our jobs as decisions made in Afghanistan or Syria,” McCallum said in an interview times radio.

He warned that Meta boss Mark Zuckerberg is creating digital living rooms that could be exploited.

“Our job is to handle a one-in-a-million case where the living room is a terrorist living room,” the spy chief said.

McCallum continued, “If you have end-to-end standard encryption, you have absolutely no way to unwrap that encryption.

“You are giving these rare people – terrorists or people who organize child sexual abuse online, some of the worst people in our society – a free pass.

“Where they know no one can see what they’re doing in those private living rooms.”

In response, a Meta spokesperson said the company has “zero tolerance” for terrorism or child exploitation on its platforms.

They added that security measures such as behavioral pattern tracking and user reports are employed to combat such abuses.

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The US joined Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada in a 2020 call to give local law enforcement access to backdoor encryption.

That would allow the police to view encrypted messages and files when an arrest warrant is issued.

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