Facebook to test encrypted Messenger chats and secure storage

Facebook will test ENCRYPTING Messenger chats by default – making it harder for workers to see contents or share them with police – days after it was revealed it handed over messages from teen, 17, who self-administered an abortion in Nebraska

  • Messenger app will allow users to encrypt and store all end-to-end chats 
  • Announcement comes three days after the company revealed it handed over a chat between a Nebraska mother and daughter
  • Jessica Burgess, 41, was discussing plans with her daughter, Celeste, 17, for an in-house abortion
  • Both the mother and daughter face both felony and misdemeanor charges 
  • Facebook says the new feature is not ‘connected to the Nebraska case or law enforcement enquiries’

Facebook will be testing encrypted messages and a secure storage for all end-to-end chats, which will prevent workers to see chat content or for them to be shared with police, according to a release from its parent company, Meta.

The purpose for the encrypted messages is to allow users to store and back up messages in case users lose their phone or want to restore message history on a new device, Meta said. 

This ‘means that [they] won’t have access to your messages, unless you choose to report them to [Meta].’

An announcement to allow users to encrypt messages comes three days after the company revealed it turned over chats between a Nebraska mother and daughter discussing preparation for the teen daughter’s in-house abortion to police officials.

Despite the possible connection between both incidents, the ‘announcement wasn’t connected to the Nebraska case or law enforcement enquiries,’ a Facebook representative told DailyMail.com.

Meta, the social media giant’s parent company, turned over the direct messages as part of an investigation into the Nebraska teen’s illegal abortion, court documents show (File photo)

Jessica Burgess (right), 41, and her daughter Celeste (not pictured), 17, were given felony charges of of removing, concealing or abandoning a dead human body

Celeste Burgess, 17, is alleged to have had a stillbirth before burning and burying the fetus

 ‘We’ve had this announcement planned for months and have been regularly sharing updates on our progress toward default end-to-end encryption for personal messages and chats.’

Initial testing of end-to-end encrypted chats began in August 2021.

Nebraska police officials submitted a search warrant in June 2022 requesting data from Meta on Jessica Burgess, 41, and her 17-year-old daughter, Celeste.

Investigation into the mother-daughter duo began in April, two months prior to the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, after police were given reports that Jessica had administered abortion pills to her daughter.

‘Nothing in the search warrants received from local law enforcement mentioned abortion,’ Facebook said in a statement, while the company was notified that officials were probing a ‘case of a stillborn baby who burned and buried.’

Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor and the president of West Coast Trial Lawyers, told DailyMail.com that Meta ‘regularly turns over user information that has been requested by U.S. law enforcement’ and that the practice is ‘not unusual.’ 

Messages between Jessica and Celeste, dated April 20, showed that Jessica had advised her daughter how to use the abortion pills.

Two days later, the pair allegedly burned and buried the fetus after Celeste had a stillbirth.

Both women were given felony charges of removing, concealing or abandoning a dead human body and misdemeanor charges of concealing the death of another person and false reporting.

A copy of the chat between Celeste and Jessica released by Meta to Madison County police officials

Meta, in a statement shared on Twitter, stated it was unaware that law enforcement was investigating an alleged illegal abortion

Jessica was later given two additional felony charges, including performing or attempting abortion at more than 20 weeks and performing an abortion as a non-licensed doctor.

Celeste, at the time of her alleged stillbirth, was 23 weeks pregnant.

Both women have plead not guilty and are currently awaiting trial.

Additional updates to Meta’s Messenger app include the ability to unsend messages and the removal of ‘vanish mode.’

Messenger will soon include a new mode where all messages disappear at a selected time after they’ve been seen.

Secure storage of Messenger chats can be accessed via a PIN or a generated authenticator code, with added restoration through a third-party cloud service.

Storage is currently being tested on both Android and iOS, and is not yet available through the desktop app or chats that are not encrypted.

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