Apple’s battle with the FBI may not have achieved much in court, but it did do some good.
Following in the iPhone-maker’s footsteps, WhatsApp today began rolling out end-to-end encryption for every single one of its 1 billion users. The move will make intercepting messages near impossible for authorities — and even WhatsApp itself.
Apple’s decision not to create an iPhone backdoor for the FBI sparked an important debate about encryption and privacy, which looked like it could bring groundbreaking changes to surveillance laws. In the end, the FBI found another way in and dropped its case.
For now, then, that debate is on hold — but Apple’s focus on protecting the safety and security of its users has inspired others in Silicon Valley to step up their own efforts. WhatsApp, which is now owned by Facebook, is making its hugely popular messaging platform more secure than ever.
With end-to-end encryption, the company is ensuring that our WhatsApp chats can’t be seen by anyone who isn’t part of the conversation. Messages can be seen by the sender and recipient only, and can’t be deciphered in between.
That means that no one — not even law enforcement and other government agencies — can intercept your messages and read your conversations. Not even WhatsApp will have the ability to see them, even if the FBI comes knocking with a court order.
WhatsApp will also begin alerting users when they send unencrypted messages. If you are involved in a group chat and one person is using an older version of the app that doesn’t support encryption, you will be notified. You will also be able to see which person is preventing encryption.
“WhatsApp began adding strong encryption as a default for some messages in late 2014, but it only worked for users on certain phones or in certain situations,” reports The Guardian. “WhatsApp has spent 18 months discreetly expanding encryption throughout its service.”
WhatsApp isn’t the first cross-platform messaging platform to offer end-to-end encryption; it can also be found in Telegram, Line, Signal, and others. But with 1 billion users, it’s by far the largest.