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WhatsApp' rolls out encryption plans

April 6, 2016

WhatsApp has implemented full end-to-end encryption. That means when you send a message, the only person who can read it is the person or group chat that you send that message to. To law enforcement's chagrin.

Symbolbild Whatsapp
Image: Imago/R. Wölk

WhatsApp said Tuesday it had instituted end-to-end encryption for all communications on its network of one billion people worldwide, the company's founders told tech magazine Wired.

A blog post by WhatsApp co-founders Jan Koum and Brian Action said encryption is an important tool for its users. "We live in a world where more of our data is digitized than ever before," they wrote.

WhatsApp, which has a billion users worldwide, made the decision after several weeks of debate over efforts by US authorities to compel Apple to help break into an encrypted iPhone.

"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.

"No one can see inside that message. Not cybercriminals. Not hackers. Not oppressive regimes. Not even us."

The end-to-end encryption protects all text, photo, video and voice communications from eavesdropping. This means hackers and criminals are closed out, but so are law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and even the Facebook-owned WhatsApp itself.

Protests for data protection

Not helping law enforcement?

The move has been attacked in law enforcement circles which claim it creates "warrant-proof" spaces for criminals and others.

The Facebook-owned mobile application is reportedly involved in a court battle similar to the one involving Apple, which fought a federal effort to provide assistance in unlocking an iPhone used by one of the shooters in last year's San Bernardino killing spree.

Other reports say WhatsApp and another application called Telegram were used by the perpetrators of the November 13 Paris attacks that left 130 people dead.

US Congress is expected to consider legislation which would require technology firms to retain "keys" that could retrieve data in a criminal investigation, with a court order. Similar measures are under consideration in Britain and France.

Facebook bought WhatsApp for $19 billion in stock and cash in 2014.

The announcement could increase tensions between Washington and Silicon Valley over how much tech companies help or hinder law enforcement access to data on their devices or networks.

jbh/bw (AFP, dpa)