WhatsApp, one of the most popular cross-platform messaging services, has just switched on end-to-end encryption for all users, meaning that from now on, when you and your contacts are using the latest version of the app, not only will all your messages be encrypted end-to-end, but your photos, videos, files and voice messages are encrypted too. This will also apply to group chats as well.
The whole concept is pretty simple, and for those concerned about maintaining their privacy against criminals, hackers or even the government, this will be great news. Simply put, no one can read your message except the people to whom you send it. Even if served with a court order, WhatsApp could not hand over the content of your messages to anyone.
Bear in mind, though, that this encryption relates to content only. Your metadata may still be visible, which could disclose who you’re communicating with, when, from where, etc. As we’ve seen elsewhere, this kind of metadata might make the content much less important, but you should be mindful anyway.
This new feature will be switched on by default, to ensure that privacy is in place without users having to take any further action.
The move is a bit of a personal one for the WhatsApp founders, noting on their blog:
The desire to protect people’s private communication is one of the core beliefs we have at WhatsApp, and for me, it’s personal. I grew up in the USSR during communist rule and the fact that people couldn’t speak freely is one of the reasons my family moved to the United States.
As for the rest of us, end-to-end encryption is a great thing, and something we hope to see in other platforms very soon. Ausdroid’s communication service of choice — Telegram — offers end-to-end encryption too, but it’s optional, and one has to create a Secret Chat to initiate it; normal conversations and group conversations aren’t encrypted in this way. We can’t wait to see others follow WhatsApp’s lead here.