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WhatsApp-ening with end-to-end encryption…

Posted by Phoebe Scott - April 8, 2016

Security has never been more front-of-mind for businesses and consumers alike. Everyday we’re faced with breaking news that data has been leaked leaving companies, and most recently the Prime Minister, a little red faced.

High-profile stories like this bring privacy issues to our front door like a relentless sales person. While millennials have the reputation of not being ‘bovvered’ about our privacy and personal data, WhatsApp’s latest move to offer end-to-end encryption to its billion users has certainly demonstrated that we might actually give a monkey’s after all. Our anti-establishment predecessors would be so proud.

WhatsApp’s decision has come in the wake of high-profile sparring between Apple and the FBI, with Apple standing firm on its policy to keep its devices protected to the delight of customers. As more of our conversations move online, it’s opening more channels for monitoring (whether the intentions are good or evil), but also more channels for leaking sensitive information.

It remains unclear how initiatives designed to intercept messages, such as the Investigatory Powers Bill, will affect WhatsApp, but it’s great to see technology evolving to the needs of its customers and taking a stance against monitoring by authorities. With security professionals, tech enthusiasts, and Amnesty International backing up the move as a “huge victory” for free speech, it’s clear this has been a popular move.

It turns out WhatsApp founder Jan Koum grew up in Soviet-era Ukraine amid surveillance fears, and for him, the feeling of not fearing being monitored is a personal one. WhatsApp has stated that protecting private communication was one of its “core beliefs”, a refreshing change in a world that seems to be veering ever-closer to Orwell’s 1984.

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