WhatsApp has begun encrypting its users’ messages on Android systems. The new encryption will prevent messages from being stored or transferred between devices.
The company is working on the technology with the startup Open Whisper Systems, a community of open source contributors. The latter company stated in a blogpost, “Today we’re excited to publicly announce a partnership with WhatsApp, the most popular messaging app in the world, to incorporate the TextSecure protocol into their clients and provide end-to-end encryption for their users by default.”
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Messages may already be encrypted. The most recent WhatsApp Android client release includes support for the TextSecure encryption protocol. The WhatsApp Android client does not yet support encrypted messaging for group chat or media messages, but will soon.
WhatsApp runs on a large number of mobile platforms, so, the company explained, full deployment will be an incremental process as TextSecure protocol support is gradually added into each WhatsApp client platform.
“We are moving quickly towards a world where all WhatsApp users will get end-to-end encryption by default.”
This is being done to make it much more difficult for outside parties to eavesdrop on people’s private messages, much to the chagrin of law enforcement officials who want to be able to tack criminals such as drug dealers and government organizations that fight terrorism like America’s National Security Agency.
But the move is in keeping with the promises made by WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum said in March when his company was acquired by Facebook to allay his users’ concerns about their privacy. “Respect for your privacy is coded into our DNA, and we built WhatsApp around the goal of knowing as little about you as possible, ” he wrote in a blog.
Koum grew up in the Soviet Union and so he understands what it is like to have governments snooping through your private affairs.
But the NSA, the Mosad, MI5 and the like certainly have the best people working for them who will always be able to get through any type of encryption.
“I do think this is the largest deployment of end-to-end encryption ever, ” said TextSecure developer Moxie Marlinspike in an interview with tech news site Wired.