WhatsApp Just Switched on end-to-end Encryption for everyone
You may have seen the news recently with Apple refusing to unlock an encrypted iPhone for the FBI (and then the FBI claiming to be able to unlock it themselves early this week) – this is a stance Apple have taken for its iPhone users, claiming it is in the interests of its users to ensure the data on your iPhone is completely safe to you and the people you contact.
The company’s refusal started off a huge debate over privacy and security in the digital age. But earlier today, at a small office in Mountain View, California, the WhatsApp founders made the scope of that enormous debate look pretty small.
Why is it small in comparison? Because more people use WhatsApp than have iPhones. In total WhatsApp has over 1 billion users across almost every conceivable device and by enabling full “end-to-end” encryption which means no cybercriminals, hackers, oppressive regimes or even WhatsApp themselves can read your messages.
The WhatApp announcement… (read in full here)
“WhatsApp has always prioritized making your data and communication as secure as possible. And today, we’re proud to announce that we’ve completed a technological development that makes WhatsApp a leader in protecting your private communication: full end-to-end encryption. From now on when you and your contacts use the latest version of the app, every call you make, and every message, photo, video, file, and voice message you send, is end-to-end encrypted by default, including group chats.
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. End-to-end encryption helps make communication via WhatsApp private – sort of like a face-to-face conversation.
The most important thing to know is that end-to-end encrypted messages can only be read by the recipients you intend. And if you’re using the latest version of WhatsApp, you don’t have to do a thing to encrypt your messages: end-to-end encryption is on by default and all the time.”
We are sure this will not be the end of this contentious debate but the opinion of the large tech companies seems to be fairly unanimous that privacy is one the most important part of their offering and they are not willing to allow governments to decide how this plays out.
Lets see if the world’s media has the same appetite for debating WhatsApp’s stance because it might just be the biggest move in the privacy debate so far.