Update to WhatsApp should protect users from government snooping and cybercriminals
From today, any messages or content such as photos or videos sent using the app will only be seen by the intended recipient or group members, making it “sort of like a face-to-face conversation”, WhatsApp said.
This means that users are now safe from governments or oppressive regimes that may want to snoop on their messages, cybercriminals or hackers, and even WhatsApp itself.
“WhatsApp has always prioritised making your data and communication as secure as possible,” said the company’s founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton.
“We live in a world where more of our data is digitised 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.”
Koum noted that the move echoed personally with him, having grown up in the repressive USSR regime which actively spied on its citizens and clamped down on free speech.
“Encryption is one of the most important tools governments, companies, and individuals have to promote safety and security in the new digital age,” he said. “Recently there has been a lot of discussion about encrypted services and the work of law enforcement. While we recognise 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.”
Data encryption has become somewhat of a hot topic in recent weeks following Apple’s battle with the FBI over its refusal to hack into the iPhone of San Bernardino terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook.
Apple CEO Tim Cook had robustly defended his company’s stance on encryption, which had gained widespread support from the general public and the technology industry as a whole.
However, the FBI says it was able to successfully gain access to the locked iPhone following assistance from an unnamed third party.
TechWeekEurope readers side with the authorities, with more than half agreeing that smartphone manufacturers should provide access to content to law enforcement if it is an ‘issue of national security’.
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