What is Facebook’s new feature Messenger Rooms?

With the rise in the number of people using video conferencing software since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, it is perhaps no surprise that companies like Facebook want to implement their own versions of this software to help keep groups connected during this difficult time. With Rooms, up to 50 people can be connected and chatting, for free.

Rooms can be created and shared by sending a link to those you would like to be involved and these people don’t need to have a Facebook account. A Room needs to be set up by someone with a Facebook or Messenger account, but anyone with a room link sent to them can access it through a web browser without having to sign into an account. However, this means that you don’t have the option, like you do with Zoom, to send messages in a chat.

Facebook also allows you to brighten up your chats with camera filters, mood lighting, themed events and 360° backgrounds.

How-to create a Room

To create a room from your phone, make sure you have the latest version of the Facebook and Messenger mobile apps downloaded, then:

  1. Open the Messenger app.
  2. Tap the ‘People’ tab at the bottom right of the screen.
  3. Tap ‘Create a Room’ and select the people who you want to join.
  4. To share a room with people who don’t have a Facebook account, you can share the link with them. You can also share the room in your News Feed, Groups and Events.

Security Concerns

Messenger Rooms arrives at a time when other video conference companies have faced scrutiny for a number of security and privacy issues, including Zoombombing – where intruders have gatecrashed others’ meetings to intercept information. Zoom has now stated it will introduce end-to-end encryption for all users but if you are concerned about how best to stay safe on the platform you can read our post on the topic here.

Yet, while Rooms has put in place a series of security measures to protect users, including allowing them to lock the meeting to stop anyone from joining during the call and enabling the Room creator to remove unwanted participants, there are some security and privacy concerns with the platform.

The most important thing user should note is that Rooms is not end-to-end encrypted. This has big privacy implications for users as because since the calls are not end-to-end encrypted, when they pass through Facebook’s servers the company has the technical ability to access their content.

So, while Facebook promises that it will not watch or listen to your conversations in Rooms, as per its privacy guidelines, the service can share your information with third parties.

Specifically, its guidelines state that “Across our services we work with outside vendors that help us do things like reviewing and addressing the issues reported by users and may share information with these partners like the name of the room, and who’s in it, in order to do this work.”

It may also be easy for a malicious actor or trickster to gain access to a Room if the only thing needed to get into one is a link that can easily be shared, setting Rooms up for its own equivalent of Zoombombing. (Roombombing?) What’s more, if these people don’t have to have a Facebook account to join, it could allow Roombombing to happen anonymously, which again is a security concern for users.

Given the fact that Rooms has been built with socialising in mind, and with the privacy concerns mentioned above this platform probably shouldn’t be seen as an option for businesses and confidential meetings.

Have you tried out Rooms yet? What did you think? Let us know in the comments section below. And, if you’re interested in video calling, why not check out our other posts on the topic too.