Encrypted messaging, video and voice calls?

Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk publicly announced in his presentation titled “Twitter 2.0” at the Twitter headquarters in San Francisco on November 21, 2022 that he plans to change how direct or private messages (DMs) work on the social network. He has a desire to improve. The platform is reportedly working on adding end-to-end encryption (E2EE) to direct or private messages (DMs) that are exchanged between users on the platform…

new updates on twitter

While Elon Musk previously hinted at plans to relaunch Vine and a user commenting system to rate tweets, we haven’t seen an update on either of these so far. Instead, he talked about other important additions such as encryption of messages on the platform and possible voice and video calls.

In fact, Twitter began working on encrypting DMs in 2018 under the moniker “Secret Conversations,” but the feature never materialized. Musk has previously defended Signal’s privacy-focused encrypted messaging platform, suggesting he makes secure communications a priority for the service.

This end-to-end encryption update was spotted by applications researcher Jane Manchun Wong. He actually uncovered evidence that Twitter may be bringing end-to-end encryption along with two other potentially helpful changes. She made the information public through a series of tweets, leaking details about new features still in development.

“This number was generated from your encryption keys from this conversation. If it matches the recipient’s phone number, end-to-end encryption is guaranteed,” according to a comment on the source code.

Elon Musk appeared to confirm that the feature is indeed in the works by reacting to the tweet with a wink emoji.

This is a sought-after and extensively requested feature that will help keep private communications secure.

Why end-to-end encryption?

End-to-end encryption (E2EE) is a completely private secure communication protocol, with no access by any party other than the participants in the messaging. This will improve privacy on Twitter and make it harder for cybercriminals and law enforcement to intercept messages. Apps like WhatsApp and Telegram have already implemented this type of protocol, and Meta announced that Facebook and Instagram will soon get it too. Musk said he has already spoken to Signal creator Moxie Marlinspike, who is now “potentially ready to help” on Twitter.

End-to-end encryption also ensures that messages leave the sender in encrypted form and are decrypted at the recipient’s end to allow reading. For this to work, both parties must use a pair of cryptographic keys to encrypt and decrypt the contents of their messages. In most E2EE implementations, the sender uses the digitally signed public key of the recipient to encrypt his message, and the recipient uses his private key to decrypt it.

In the case of Twitter, Wong mentions a “negotiation key”, so the E2EE method implemented can be “symmetric”, meaning that both people in the chat use the same key for encryption and decryption.

If Twitter introduces E2EE on DMs, users will feel more comfortable about the security and privacy of their communications, even under certain circumstances like hacks that affect the platform.

Is end-to-end encryption really beneficial?

Beyond the technical work required to introduce E2EE, there are complicating factors that need to be considered. If Musk announces encrypted DMs in a short time, it will raise concerns about the security and quality of the feature. Additionally, with Twitter downsizing by 50% and the departure of key employees – including information security chief Lee Kisner, who understand the cryptological challenges of such a project – it’s unclear whether the rest of the team can really tackle such a complex feature.

But that won’t stop Elon Musk, as he said in his presentation titled “Twitter 2.0” on November 21, 2022 at the Twitter headquarters in San Francisco that “we also want the ability to do voice and video chat via DMs.” So you don’t need to give your phone number to anyone.

After all, maybe Twitter 2.0 is just what Musk knows is needed to prevent users from leaking onto other platforms like Hive Social and Mastodon…

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