A couple of weeks ago we talked about the intention of some instant messaging companies such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Google and Snapchat to increase their privacy technology, and now it is official: WhatsApp has just rolled out end-to-end encryption for its many users (1 billion all over the world).
It means that now the Facebook-owned app encrypts every message, video, photo or file and WhatsApp call. And this will happen with every platform supporting the app (Android, iPhones, Blackberry, Windows and Nokia). So users who have the most recent version of WhatsApp installed on their devices can be sure that nobody (apart from the sender and the receiver) will be able to access their contents. Even WhatsApp employees will be unable to get into users messages and calls.
This tough decision is a consequence of the battle between Apple and the Department of Justice. WhatsApp has been immediately on Apple’s side in this battle, and Jan Koum, co-founder and CEO of WhatsApp, has used explicit, strong words to support Apple: “I have always admired Tim Cook for his stance on privacy and Apple’s efforts to protect user data … We must not allow this dangerous precedent to be set. Today our freedom and our liberty is at stake.”
You are not sure about the meaning of end-to-end encryption? Let’s see it together. In a few words, end-to-end encryption is a method of communication that allows only the people communicating each other to access messages sent. So we can state that it’s a secure method of communication. Obviously, nowadays this method is not appreciated (actually, quite disapproved) by governments because they can’t access users communications.
With the introduction of end-to-end encryption, instant messaging companies can’t even cooperate with authorities since even them don’t have access to users’ communications. So far WhatsApp has offered a partial service of encryption (for text messages), until now, when the company extended the end-to-end encryption to all types of communications and across every platform that supports the app. By the way: have you received the message that notifies you of this latest decision?
Jan Koum in person has made an official statement through a Facebook post: “We’ve been working for the past two years to give people better security over their conversations on WhatsApp. I’m proud of our team for hitting this milestone: now every message, photo, video, file, and voice message you send, is end-to-end encrypted by default if you and the people you message use the latest version of our app. Even your group chats and voice calls are encrypted. People deserve security. It makes it possible for us to connect with our loved ones. It gives us the confidence to speak our minds. It allows us to communicate sensitive information with colleagues, friends, and others. We’re glad to do our part in keeping people’s information out of the hands of hackers and cyber-criminals.”
What changes now? For users: nothing. For law enforcement and governmental authorities: it will be much more difficult to obtain copies of any communications. What does it mean? That WhatsApp is one of the safest way to communicate. And Brian Acton, WhatsApp co-founder, added his opinion to Koum words, and told Wired magazine that “Building secure products actually makes for a safer world, (though) many people in law enforcement may not agree with that,”