The Facebook-owned WhatsApp has announced that going forward, messages, voice calls, and sharing of photos and videos, are now encrypted end-to-end. Now people using WhatsApp on any platform can send anything to another user, and it will be inaccessible to anyone except the recipient. Not even WhatsApp itself can get in.
This means that if any group of people uses the latest version of WhatsApp—whether that group spans two people or ten—the service will encrypt all messages, phones calls, photos, and videos moving among them. And that’s true on any phone that runs the app, from iPhones to Android phones to Windows phones to old school Nokia flip phones.
While WhatsApp has been adding encryption features for years now, the company felt it needed to make a larger move to protect the privacy of its more than 1 billion users around the world. As co-founder Jan Koum states:
We’re somewhat lucky here in the United States, where we hope that the checks and balances hold out for many years to come and decades to come. But in a lot of countries you don’t have these checks and balances,” says Koum, dressed in his usual T-shirt and hoodie. Coming from Koum, this is not an academic point, as most of WhatsApp’s users are outside the US.
This move comes after a very public fight between the FBI and Apple over encryption, in which the FBI attempted to compel Apple to disable a security feature in iOS by creating a special version of the operating system and loading to a suspect’s phone. While law enforcement officials have yet to speak on WhatsApp’s recent actions, it seems likely that they’ll have something to say sooner or later.