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Facebook starts going encrypted by default in North America

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Facebook is finally deploying secure browsing for its 1-billion-strong userbase over the coming weeks.

It confirmed the move on its developers' blog last week:

As announced last year, we are moving to HTTPS for all users. This week, we're starting to roll out HTTPS for all North America users and will be soon rolling out to the rest of the world.

Mark Zuckerberg's free-content ad network in fact confirmed to third party coders its intentions to move to HTTPS encryption by default in May 2011.

It appears that the shift has taken a while to be implemented, but then that's hardly surprising given the size of Facebook. It's apparently been working hard on enhancing performance to its load-balancing infrastructure to prepare for the move.

Eventually, users will probably notice that browsing pages on Facebook has slowed down a tad - but then that's the trade-off for a more secure connection.

It's been the trend in recent years for Silicon Valley web outfits to gingerly approach the concept of more secure browsing via HTTPS by first offering it to users as an opt-in option before shifting all of them over by default.

Google rolled out default end-to-end encryption to people who use the site to search for images, news and general webpages in October 2011, for example, preventing eavesdroppers from easily reading the traffic.

In the UK, Wikipedia's founder Jimmy Wales issued an empty threat to flick the switch on his website to HTTPS if the Home Secretary Theresa May's controversial draft communications data bill sees the light of day.

It remains unclear how spooks might successfully intercept traffic when websites transmit individual user sessions over encrypted SSL channels. For their part the UK's spooks claim they have no interest in what it said, only in who talks to who: but if all communication is on Facebook and the connections into Facebook are encrypted, they would presumably be left in the dark on that too. ®

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