It has been a long-standing feud between the FBI and Apple over a U.S. federal order to unlock an iPhone owned by a mass shooter. Apple flatly refused to comply with the order, sparking a huge debate over privacy and security.
WhatsApp the popular messaging app owned by Facebook delved into the privacy over security debate by encrypting communications for about a billion people worldwide. The action by the company essentially says they value user privacy over any security measures the government may have in mind.
WhatsApp currently has about a billion people worldwide who use the app to make calls, trade messages, photos, and videos. WhatsApp added end-to-end encryption to every form of communications users might make on the messaging app.
Thus, going forward, users using the latest version of the app, be they be two users or a group of users, all of their communications are encrypted. The encryption is available for all WhatsApp app on all platforms be it Android, iOS, Windows Phone to even Symbian operating systems.
As a user, this encryption means that only you and the person on the other end have access to the communications you send back and forth to each other on the messaging app. Not even WhatsApp employees can access your communication, let alone third parties like government or even black hat hackers.
In the event, a government requires WhatsApp to handover communication details of a user suspected to be involved in criminal activities. WhatsApp will not be in a position to comply since it has no way of accessing users’ communications over their platform.
“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,” writes WhatsApp.
So just like Apple, WhatsApp is stonewalling not just the U.S. government, but government all over the world since the app is used by about a billion people worldwide. Law enforcement agencies will undoubtedly not agree with the action taken by WhatsApp or Apple’s refusal to comply with the court order to unlock the iPhone.
WhatsApp has rolled out an update to users with the encryption option. Starting Tuesday, users with the latest version of the app must have noticed some changes when sending messages. The encryption is enabled by default.
Amnesty International said the encryption was a “huge victory” for free speech. The organization went on to say, “WhatsApp’s roll out of the Signal Protocol, providing end to end encryption for its one billion users worldwide, is a major boost for people’s ability to express themselves and communicate without fear.
This is a huge victory for privacy and free speech, especially for activists and journalists who depend on strong and trustworthy communications to carry out their work without putting their lives at greater risk.”