What's Up With Facebook's Secret Conversations Mode?


Facebook now has a mobile-only option for messaging called Secret Conversations. Yu Yiu Hoi/Getty Images
Facebook now has a mobile-only option for messaging called Secret Conversations. Yu Yiu Hoi/Getty Images

If we've learned anything from the rise of Wikileaks, it's that no one is safe from the threat of having their email hacked and shared with the world at any time. That, and that it's probably not a good idea for one of the top advisers to a presidential candidate to continue a relationship with a disgraced lawmaker who just can't seem to keep his selfies to himself. Hackers are getting bold about the way they do their work, whether it's tapping into a cache of risqué celebrity photos, letting the world take a good gander at private conversations at one of Hollywood's most powerful studios, or simply mining for information that can be used to steal the online identities of regular people.

The good news is that the world's biggest social media operator is fighting back with encryption technology it says will ensure that your private conversations stay that way. Facebook recently unveiled a new secret conversation mode that encodes conversations through the site's messaging app, both when a message is sent and when it's received. The idea is to give discussions that users want to keep to themselves a little more protection.

The new option — only available through Facebook's Messenger app for smartphones — allows users to encrypt written messages, photos and stickers sent from one person to another. It doesn't encrypt group messages, videos or GIFs, at least not yet. The technology also allows users to set a timer on a certain message so that it disappears from the conversation in the same way that Snapchat photos and texts self-destruct. And messages sent in this secret mode can't be accessed from devices other than the ones they're created on, so anyone else snooping by logging in as you from another phone or computer won't see a thing.

Just where those messages go once they time out isn't clear, but Facebook swears it values your privacy, saying it won't even look at stuff sent in secret mode. If advertisements for waxing or beauty products suddenly start showing up in your feed the next time you do some late-night messaging, it's safe to assume that secret mode ain't all that secret after all. Tread lightly.