“Privacy” has been a hot topic these days. The lawsuit between the FBI and Apple, referring to the iPhone 5C used by the terrorist that attacked in San Bernardino, has started a huge debate on privacy and security. Many of the biggest technology related companies in the world, supported Apple in the privacy issue. Google and Facebook are probably 2 of the bigger names among many other companies.
Whatsapp is a very popular messaging application in many countries in Europe. In Spain for example, we use the word “whatsapp” as a verb. The same way as “text me”, people would say “whatsapp me”. The fact that many people use a company’s name as a verb implies how popular and important this messaging service is between European people.
(Similar thing happens here in the US with VENMO or GOOGLE) “Hey, venmo me the money when you can please!”, “I’m not sure about that, let me Google real quick”.
A couple of days ago pop up messages were appearing in some of my conversations in this messaging app. Claiming that now whatsapp had end-to-end encryption.
What is end-to-end encryption?
End to end encryption means that when you click the button “send”. Your message will encrypt at the moment it’s out of your phone. Then it will get to whatsapp’s servers and remain encrypted, then sent to the destination phone. The only two people that will be able to read that message are the “sender” and the “receptor”.
The key to decrypt the messages is now stored in each device and not in the servers as it used to be. Not even whatsapp can access to this messages anymore.
The main difference between end-to-end encryption and partial encryption is that in partial encryption, the message will get decrypted once it gets to the servers, stored, and then encrypted again to be sent to the receptor’s phone. All text messages, file transfers and voice calls are scrambled en route between users’ phones so they can’t be intercepted.
Whatsapp have been involved in several cases of privacy problems. But in this last update, they made sure that the encryption in the messaging was done right. Whatsapp has been working with a company called Open Whisper Systems, a well-known company that created products like “Redphone” or “signal”, or “textsecure”.
In other words, now the only people capable to read this bunch of encrypted bits (0 & 1) are the people implied; sender and receiver (or receivers).
The fact that such a huge service used over a billion users is getting end to end encryption is a game changer.
Companies want to defend their values and their customers (therefore the main source of revenue). Even a big brand like Apple is sensitive to a crisis that strikes one of their main products. Even Amnesty International, where I did an internship last year, called WhatsApp’s move a “huge victory” for free speech. Is it a matter of national security vs. personal privacy?
Security can’t be an excuse for governments to control all communications and monitor the people. The Apple case will be the precedent and now the companies, as for example Whatsapp, are moving towards a better privacy for their customers, denying the possibility to create backdoors. Which company is going to be next?
The Pixel Shark.