Meta’s AI Messages on Instagram Might Lack Encryption

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Introduction:

Meta’s AI Message: Beware before you confide in an AI persona. Before you spill your thoughts to Billie, your “ride-or-die older sister” portrayed by Kendall Jenner, or an AI grandpa named Brian on Instagram, be aware that your messages might not be secure.

Meta‘s AI personas, currently in beta, encompass various characters, some played by celebrities and creators, that users can interact with on Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp. However, it seems that messages exchanged with these characters on Instagram lack end-to-end encryption.

In Instagram’s message tab, there’s a toggle at the top that allows you to enable end-to-end encryption, safeguarding your messages from prying eyes, including Meta and government entities. However, when this feature is activated, the option to initiate an AI chat vanishes. Clicking on the information button (the “i” circle icon) within the chat reveals that the “Use end-to-end encryption” option is grayed out. Upon clicking it, a window pops up, stating, “Some people can’t use end-to-end encryption yet.” It then declares that you “can’t add”them”—referring to the AI persona—to the conversation. Essentially, you lack the option to engage in a conversation with one of these personas via end-to-end encryption on Instagram.

One of the primary concerns about the proliferation of generative AI is the substantial data collection, both for model training and to provide companies with detailed insights into their users. Meta already has a questionable track record concerning personal data use. This includes the Cambridge Analytica scandal, instances of Facebook disclosing private conversations to law enforcement, and the way its algorithms exploited personal data and behaviors to make its platforms addictive (and sometimes harmful), to name just a few. Previous incidents imply that trusting Meta—or any social media company, for that matter—with your data may not be wise.

When first trying out the AI messages feature in WhatsApp, you’re immediately presented with a pop-up disclaimer stating, “Meta may use your AI messages to enhance AI quality. But your personal messages are never sent to Meta. They can’t be read and remain end-to-end encrypted.”

This implies that while some information about your messages can be accessed by AI (which is still concerning for privacy), the message content remains private. However, this is unconfirmed, particularly due to Meta’s vague generative AI privacy policy, which states, “When you chat with AI, Meta may use the messages you send to it to train the AI model, helping make the AIs better.”

An online source reached out to Meta to verify whether AI messages on Instagram lack end-to-end encryption and to clarify the status of those on WhatsApp and Messenger. Although we did not receive a response before publication, we will update this story if Meta provides one.

Last spring, OpenAI introduced an opt-out feature for ChatGPT, giving users the choice to prevent their data from being used to train the model. However, other AI chatbots like Google Bard and Microsoft Bing lack such opt-out features, although they offer the ability to delete your activity. Meta’s generative AI privacy policy page offers a similar option to delete your data. You can do this by typing /reset-ai to remove data from an individual AI chat and /or reset-all-ais to erase data from all chats across Meta apps.

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