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Whatsapp-ening with Encryption?

Whatsapp, the app that enables over one billion people worldwide to trade messages, make phone calls, send photos, and swap videos, has taken a huge step in protecting its customer’s data by encrypting all messages sent or received on its service. The company describes itself as “a leader in protecting your private communication”.

The Facebook-owned company began to add encryption to its services in 2013 and 2014.  However, as of this month, Whatsapp have added ‘end-to-end’ encryption to every form of communication offered by the app. Anything sent, and therefore encrypted, can only be read by the recipient(s) intended.

Whatsapp explain, “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.”  The end-to-end encryption settings will be set as default on the newest version of Whatsapp and on every type of phone that runs the software.

Undoubtedly, these changes, no matter how much they protect user’s data, will come under some criticism. The messages can only be decrypted by the recipient’s device, and not even law enforcement groups will be able to intercept data sent across the network. Therefore, in the same vein as the FBI and Apple dispute earlier this year (see WAB blog post here), some will question the public safety threat that this level of privacy could risk.

WAB Comment:

There is no doubt that these steps are a giant leap forward in protecting people’s data, as encouraged by data protection regulators such as the ICO (see WAB blog article here). However, the unfolding conflict between data privacy rights and public safety concerns will continue to be an issue for the biggest names in tech.

Disclaimer: This article is produced for and on behalf of White & Black Limited, which is a limited liability company registered in England and Wales with registered number 06436665. It is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. The contents of this article should be viewed as opinion and general guidance, and should not be treated as legal advice.

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