Snapchat has become the latest social media messaging platform to add end-to-end encryption, with the feature looking increasingly likely to become standard across the industry, despite law enforcement concerns.
For users, end-to-end encryption provides an assurance of privacy – a growing concern in the wake of incidents such as 2018’s Cambridge Analytica scandal.
“End-to-end encryption gives people the security they expect when having private conversations with friends, loved ones or colleagues,” explained Jake Moore, cybersecurity expert at ESET UK.
Snapchat end-to-end encryption welcomed
This sense of security will, Moore believes, result in end-to-end encryption becoming an expected feature on social media platforms such as Snapchat.
“I think end-to-end encryption is likely to become standard on all social media messaging platforms because in my opinion, it is a must in any sort of communication,” he told Verdict.
“It gives individuals a degree of confidence that the person they are sending the message to should be the only one to view it.”
The introduction of this type of security, said Moore, also helps to improve awareness about online privacy, which he sees as a positive step.
“More and more people are becoming aware of security and online privacy, and the introduction of end-to-end encryption on these popular platforms only further increases this level of awareness – which can only be a good thing.”
Law enforcement concerns over end-to-end encryption
While encryption is positive for individual users, it poses a challenge to law enforcement professionals, who make use of online communications to monitor criminal activity.
While unencrypted messages can be accessed by third parties such as law enforcement, messages sent with end-to-end encryption cannot.
However, with numerous services now offering encryption, including messaging platform WhatsApp, in a sense this ship has already sailed.
“No doubt it can cause a frustration for law enforcement but when there are a plethora of hidden communication applications for criminals to use, updating Snapchat shouldn’t cause too much of a negative impact,” said Moore.
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“Disappearing techniques in messages have caused difficulties for digital forensics investigators for a few years now but it increasingly gives confidence to its users.”
Not all encryption provides complete privacy
Notably for users, not all encryption provides the same level of privacy – an area that may see growing consumer awareness in the coming years.
“Some applications already offer fully end-to-end encryption with no ability for prying eyes – whether they own the platform or not – which offers more privacy and in turn, security,” said Moore.
“However, it is thought that some social media messaging platforms are able to monitor the language and words used on them for moderation purposes – albeit that could be anything from monitoring extremism to micro targeting advertising.”