Instant messaging service WhatsApp in seeking to reassure its users about their privacy will be encrypting all messages sent via its app.
WhatsApp’s announcement comes in the heels of one of the most high-profile clashes in the debate over encryption and data privacy between the government and a technology company. In February, the FBI asked Apple to unlock one of the San Bernardino shooters’ iPhones so authorities could access his data.
Apple refused, stating a breach of privacy; the FBI took Apple to court but was eventually able to unlock the phone without Apple’s help. It dropped the suit.
In a blog post written by WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum on Tuesday, Koum explains that every conversation on the messaging service, whether it be a private or group chat, will have full end-to-end encryption, thus making the recipient the only person who can see the message.
Here is WhatsApp’s blog post ‘end-to-end encryption‘
WhatsApp has always prioritized making your data and communication as secure as possible. And today, we’re proud to announce that we’ve completed a technological development that makes WhatsApp a leader in protecting your private communication: full end-to-end encryption. From now on when you and your contacts use the latest version of the app, every call you make, and every message, photo, video, file, and voice message you send, is end-to-end encrypted by default, including group chats.
The idea is simple: when you send a message, the only person who can read it is the person or group chat that you send that message to. No one can see inside that message. Not cybercriminals. Not hackers. Not oppressive regimes. Not even us. End-to-end encryption helps make communication via WhatsApp private – sort of like a face-to-face conversation.
If you’re interested in learning more about how end-to-end encryption works, you can read about it here. But all you need to know is that end-to-end encrypted messages can only be read by the recipients you intend. And if you’re using the latest version of WhatsApp, you don’t have to do a thing to encrypt your messages: end-to-end encryption is on by default and all the time.
We live in a world where more of our data is digitized than ever before. Every day we see stories about sensitive records being improperly accessed or stolen. And if nothing is done, more of people’s digital information and communication will be vulnerable to attack in the years to come. Fortunately, end-to-end encryption protects us from these vulnerabilities.
Encryption is one of the most important tools governments, companies, and individuals have to promote safety and security in the new digital age. Recently there has been a lot of discussion about encrypted services and the work of law enforcement. While we recognize the important work of law enforcement in keeping people safe, efforts to weaken encryption risk exposing people’s information to abuse from cybercriminals, hackers, and rogue states.
While WhatsApp is among the few communication platforms to build full end-to-end encryption that is on by default for everything you do, we expect that it will ultimately represent the future of personal communication.
The desire to protect people’s private communication is one of the core beliefs we have at WhatsApp, and for me, it’s personal. I grew up in the USSR during communist rule and the fact that people couldn’t speak freely is one of the reasons my family moved to the United States.
Today more than a billion people are using WhatsApp to stay in touch with their friends and family all over the world. And now, every single one of those people can talk freely and securely on WhatsApp.
Jan and Brian