Jan Koum, co-founder of Whatsapp left Ukraine (then USSR) when he was 16 years old, and relocated to USA with his family. One of the primary reasons for this migration was the fact that Ukrainian citizens were not able to talk among themselves. The existing Government was so strict in surveillance, that they recorded and heard every conversation happening between any citizens.
Koum knows the pain and the fear which such diktat brings along, and this is the reason he has decided to make Whatsapp free from such threats, for ever.
In a historical decision, which would be remembered as a landmark, unprecedented in recent times, Whatsapp has announced that every message exchange on their platform would be now encrypted.
What Does It Mean?
In layman terms, this means that if Jack send a message to Alice on Whatsapp, then besides Alice, no one would be able to access that message; not even Whatsapp.
In their blog post, Whatsapp declared, “Today, we’re proud to announce that we’ve completed a technological development that makes WhatsApp a leader in protecting your private communication: full end-to-end encryption.”
In a clear cut message to USA Government, secret surveillance agencies and ‘rouge states’, Whatsapp has made every type of communication on their platform as encrypted; and this includes: “every call you make, and every message, photo, video, file, and voice message you send, is end-to-end encrypted by default, including group chats”
Open Whisper Systems, is the technology firm which has provided the backbone of WhatsApp’s encryption; and as per their officials, even if Whatsapp receives a court order to tap and record a conversation, they can’t do it.
Besides, in case a message is being tapped or decrypted, then that user would be notified as well!
Apple-FBI Battle Spilling Over?
Such transparent and open declaration is seen as a direct result of the recent spat between Apple and FBI; wherein the former was asked to unlock an iPhone of a suspect, but Apple refused to follow the orders.
Tim Cook, Apple CEO had to come out in the open, and share the details of this special Govt. request; and this step was highly applauded and appreciated by the tech community.
Eventually, FBI was able to unlock that handset using external means, but the incident opened a pandora’s box related with privacy and protection of consumer rights.
However, the question remains that what if the Govt. is aware about a criminal using Whatsapp to bomb a shopping mall- Will Whatsapp allow encryption and recording of the conversation?
The debate and discussion has actually just started.
You can have more information about Whatsapp’s encryption mechanism here.