Facebook this week announced it had boosted the encryption settings for more than a billion users of its WhatsApp messaging service so that all messages will be accessible only to the sender and the recipient.
The updated app comes amid a heated debate about how much law enforcement and governments should be able to access in terms of digital communications, after a high profile showdown between the FBI and Apple over an encrypted iPhone.
WhatsApp started working on full encryption about two years ago with the help of software from Open Whisper Systems. The communications app began offering it by default on text only messages between two users in 2014, but group messages and those containing photos and videos were not fully encrypted.
From Tuesday all WhatsApp messages will use end to end encryption, the firm said, meaning even WhatsApp/Facebook won’t have any means to read customer messages even if asked by law enforcement.
“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”, WhatsApp said in a blog post. “Not cybercriminals. Not hackers. Not oppressive regimes. Not even us”.
The Justice Department declined to comment on the update, as did the FBI, according to Reuters.
Larry Banks is a keen follower of technology and finance. He has worked for a variety of online publications, writing about a diverse range of topics including mobile networks, patents, and Internet video delivery technologies.