Whatsapp encryption of messages

The following article is based on my own interpretation of the said events. Any material borrowed from published and unpublished sources has been appropriately referenced. I will bear the sole responsibility for anything that is found to have been copied or misappropriated or misrepresented in the following post.

Aman Pasari, MBA 2015-17, Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur

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Whatsapp the word is now synonymous to the texting or once which was used to be SMS has introduced one of the most awaited features – encryption which was long overdue.
WhatsApp figuratively flipped a switch and turned on encryption for over a billion people who use the app. Now, this may seem like just another regular feature in the chat app. But actually, it is a much much more significant move, especially in the backdrop of the much-public fight between Apple and FBI over the encryption.

There are two aspects to the WhatsApp’s move to enable encryption: long term and short term. And both should make WhatsApp users happy.

So what can users expect in the short term. The WhatsApp co-founders Brian Acton and Jan Koum explain it best. They write, “The idea is simple: when you send a message, the only person who can read it is the person or group chat that you send that message to. No one can see inside that message. Not cyber-criminals. Not hackers. Not oppressive regimes. Not even us. End-to-end encryption helps make communication via WhatsApp private – sort of like a face-to-face conversation.”

All of the communication that you carry out through WhatsApp is now encrypted. This includes calls or even the videos that you may share through the app. Although, WhatsApp will still collect meta-data, the fact that it no longer have access to users’ chats is significant.

The long term impact of the move is even more significant. Of late, especially after Edward Snowden revealed the surveillance programmes run by NSA, there is a feeling that nothing is private anymore on the web. But WhatsApp’s move to enable strong encryption and making sure that it doesn’t store any keys, brings some sort of privacy back into the web-related communication. This is important because nowadays not only are cyber criminals looking to exploit people’s data, but also governments across the world are trying to keep a tab on what people say to each other using chat apps or social media.

So we can rightly say that the privacy will be maintained now in the Whatsapp but at the same it will promote more criminal tendencies in the society as it will be very difficult for authorities to catch hold of the person responsible for any crimes. Well we have to wait and watch over the implications of this new feature, till then whatsapp and chill.

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