WhatsApp, the most popular instant-messaging platform with more than 600 million users which Facebook snapped up for $16 billions earlier this year, has started to protect data with end-to-end encryption, The Wall Street Journal reports.
For the time being, text messages exchanged between Android users of WhatsApp are being encrypted by default.
It shouldn’t be too long until the company adds encryption to the iOS app and other mobile platforms. Encryption protects users’ communications from governments and hackers alike by making the data unreadable as it travels between servers.
That means WhatsApp won’t be able to help law enforcement decrypt messages, the company said. Encryption does not currently apply to group messages or media messages (I have no doubt that the team is already on it), nor does it protect messages exchanged between an Android device and an iPhone, or other non-Android smartphone or tablet, from prying eyes.
The team is working with Open Whisper Systems, a privacy-technology company run by Moxie Marlinspike, on encryption in WhatsApp. Privacy advocates have noted that WhatsApp’s implementation of encryption will make it impossible for foreign governments and U.S. agencies to intercept text messages, even with a warrant.
“We have a ways to go until all mobile platforms are fully supported, but we are moving quickly towards a world where all WhatsApp users will get end-to-end encryption by default,” Open Whispers said in a blog post.
Open Whisper Systems received grants from the U.S. government to develop the open-source, free of charge TextSecure encryption protocol.
Unlike iMessage which also uses end-to-end encryption but backs up encrypted messages on Apple’s servers for users who have enabled iCloud Backup, WhatsApp does not keep contents of your communications stored on its servers, meaning the firm can’t decrypt messages for commercial or law-enforcement purposes even if it wanted.
Note that most of WhatsApp’s more than 600 million users are located outside the United States so Uncle Sam will no have a much harder time eavesdropping on WhatsApp messages of non-U.S. citizens.