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WhatsApp rolls out full encryption to a billion messenger users
WhatsApp is updating its messenger app so that every text and voice call on one of the world’s most popular apps will be protected with strong encryption – potentially putting millions more conversations outside the purview of authorities. The development at the messenger company, which is owned by Facebook, is striking given Silicon Valley's recent staredown with authorities over user data privacy.
The FBI dropped a court battle with Apple over its iPhone encryption, and Brazilian police recently arrested a Facebook executive because WhatsApp couldn't provide messages sent by a criminal suspect. None of that appears to have deterred WhatsApp founder Jan Koum, who grew up in Soviet-era Ukraine amid surveillance fears and has said that he often heard his mother say things like, "This isn't a telephone conversation".
"The desire to protect people's private communication is one of the core beliefs we have at WhatsApp, and for me, it’s personal", Koum wrote in a blog post published Tuesday. "I grew up in the USSR during communist rule and the fact that people couldn't speak freely is one of the reasons my family moved to the United States".
The Guardian reported on WhatsApp's plans in March. All of WhatsApp’s 1 billion users, when running the latest version of the app on iPhone, a Google Android device, Nokia or Blackberry, will send and receive messages, attachments and voice calls that engineers say can only be deciphered by the intended recipient, said Moxie Marlinspike, an encrypted messaging developer at Open Whisper Systems, whose technology forms the backbone of WhatsApp's encryption.
This means WhatsApp shouldn't be able to facilitate a wiretap of the contents of users' messages, even if faced with a court order. It's unclear if the company will be able to help authorities intercept data on when they use WhatsApp or with whom they communicate. Additionally, WhatsApp will take the unusual step for a consumer app of notifying users if messages are encrypted, Marlinspike said.
Source: The Guardian
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