WhatsApp today made a major announcement by switching on end-to-end encryption on its platform. The encryption will protect all communication made on its network, be it person-to-person chat, group chat, voice calls, text messages, photos or videos. The encryption comes weeks after Apple was at loggerheads with the FBI and the US Department of Justice over their request to create a backdoor in iOS for authorities to hack into iPhones. Also Read - WhatsApp is soon to change the way your data is backed up: What it means?Also Read - WhatsApp introduces 'Papa Mere Papa' stickers to celebrate Father's Day: How to download, send?
“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,” WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum wrote in a blog post announcing the new system.
The end-to-end encryption will work for everyone who is running the latest version of WhatsApp and they won’t have to do anything to enable it. It is a major move considering WhatsApp claims it has over a billion monthly active users.
In 2014 WhatsApp had implemented Open Whisper Systems’ end-to-end encryption but it was only for individual chats and it was not implemented for group chats or media messages. WhatsApp had not launched voice calls at that time. However, the company had then indicated it would eventually implement it across its services. The move is important as it would also protect WhatsApp from future government requests to decrypt communication over its network since it doesn’t have the proverbial “key” to unlock that communication.
However, it doesn’t mean WhatsApp’s won’t be liable. In the past, governments across the world, including India, have sought communication service providers to provide access for lawful interception of communication. The Indian government, for instance, had forced BlackBerry to set up its servers in India and come up with a mechanism to allow it to access communication in a readable format. It is not impossible for governments to force WhatsApp to do the same or face being blocked altogether.
However, WhatsApp’s founders believe that end-to-end encryption will be the future of all personal communication and it is a reality that authorities will have to come to terms with sooner than later. “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.” Koum writes.