In a move that will drive the wedge between the technology industry and law enforcement agencies worldwide, WhatsApp has announced end-to-end encryption on the latest version of the messenger app. The Facebook-owned messaging giant has said that the new feature has been introduced to ensure that messages between users cannot be eavesdropped on by cyber criminals, governments, or even the company itself. The new feature, which will be automatically turned on when a user downloads the latest version of the application, has been developed in association with Open Whisper Systems. The latter have their own messaging app, Signal.
Market watchers now expect many governments to oppose this decision as this could dilute their efforts to fight cyber criminals and terrorism.
How Does End-to-end Encryption Affect Users?
End-to-end encryption allows for a secure exchange of information between two or more people, much like a face-to-face conversation. When an encrypted message is intercepted, all that the interceptor can see is lines of code. So in the case with encrypted calls, where anyone managing to intercept a telephonic conversation will hear garbled words. End-to-end encryption takes this secure exchange of information to a whole new level wherein even the company that run the app cannot read messages sent via the app.
While the intention of the company seem to be to protect its users from cyber criminals and rogue states, there are fears of the service being misused.
What will Law Enforcement Agencies’ Next Move Be?
The technology industry is already in a legal tussle with governments across the world, with the most recent case being that of the battle between Apple and the U.S. FBI. This battle too, is centered on the encryption issue. Many governments are of the opinion that encryption will only make terrorists and criminals bolder as they are constantly looking for secure methods to communicate. It wouldn’t be surprising if some countries decided to impose a ban on WhatsApp following this bold move.
Tech companies, on their part, have argued that their intention is to protect their users from hackers and cyber criminals and safeguard their information.