Your Facebook account is about to get a whole lot safer. The social network just introduced new strong encryption features that will help preserve the privacy of your messages and emails. Not everyone is happy about the change, though. The government and law enforcement, for example, are dead set against it.
Facebook is now letting users add OpenPGP public keys to their profile to allow other users to contact them securely. Facebook users can also opt to receive encrypted email notifications from Facebook using their public and private keys. Even if a hacker broke into your email account, they wouldn't be able to read your messages from Facebook with this option enabled.
Public keys are how people communicate with most popular encryption products. Every user has a public and a private key — the public is shared freely, while the private is kept secret. Anyone can encrypt a message using someone else's public key, which can then only be decrypted by the owner of that public key — using their private key.
You can add OpenPGP public keys to your profile on the Contact and Basic Info section of the About page from a desktop computer. If you're interested in this feature, Facebook has provided additional information and direction to help you get started.
Both police and the government are against strong encryption because it doesn't provide a "backdoor" to allow them to access your information, even if officers have a warrant. Basically, if they don't have your private key, they can't access any of your messages.
FBI director James Comey previously spoke out against the strong encryption used by Apple and Google to protect data on your gadgets. And, he's not the only one. The president also wants to make sure the government has some access to your data.
"When we have the ability to track [online communication] in a way that is legal, conforms with due process, rule of law and presents oversight, then that's a capability we have to preserve," he said in January. According to The Hill, the president is now calling on lawmakers "to update a 1994 wiretapping law to require tech companies to build a way for the government to access suspects’ data."
However, privacy advocates argue that even small backdoors for government and law enforcement will weaken encryption and put your data at risk to hackers.