WhatsApp brings end-to-end encrypted messaging to the masses

WhatsApp has introduced end-to-end encryption to all messages, photos, videos, voice messages, documents, and calls across its platform, giving privacy to its billion users around the globe.

Encryption is big news at the moment thanks to Apple’s recent spat with the FBI, and after a year of working with Open Whisper Systems to integrate its encrypted Signal protocol, the conversion of WhatsApp to a fully encrypted communication platform is now complete.

The Edward Snowden revelations about the extent of dragnet communication spying by US and UK intelligence agencies has pushed technology companies to encrypt their services – with Google recently encrypting the data-links between its datacenters to avoid prying eyes, Apple encrypting all iPhones and iPads by default, and now WhatsApp encrypting all communications across its platform.

Many people continue to ask why encryption is important and why people would want to hide their communications from government agencies when they have nothing to hide – but such questions completely miss the point. Encryption does not only hide our communications from intelligence agencies, but also hackers who continue to find ingenious ways to intercept our data to steal our identities and our money.

Even more important is that while we may be happy with our democracies at the moment, history shows that it takes only a few short years for democracies to turn into authoritarian dictatorships and no-one would want that sort of government reading our messages. Encryption means that we can continue to communicate privately with our friends, family, and colleagues in the future – no matter what sort of government has control over the levers of state.

David Cameron had previously been a strong opponent to end-t-end encryption and has pushed for digital backdoors. Ignoring that those backdoors would also be open for hackers to exploit, he seems remarkably keen for his own financial affairs to remain private in the wake of the Panama Papers – so maybe we should all be given that privacy, and encryption should be everywhere.

For now – well done WhatsApp for implementing end-to-end encryption across its system, and we hope everyone else wills soon follow suit.

Photograph by Sam Azgor

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