WhatsApp has announced that it is implementing end-to-end encryption for the Android version of its app – an unprecedented move that makes it the most secure large-scale messaging service available.
The announcement is true to form for the company’s CEO and founder Jan Koum who has consistently assured users of his commitment to privacy after growing up under the surveillance-orientated regime of 1980s Soviet-era Ukraine.
End-to-end encryption is more secure than the protocols used by the likes of Facebook Messenger and Google’s Gchat as it means that even WhatsApp itself can’t decrypt users’ messages if law enforcement demands the data.
Apple’s iMessage and numerous third-party messaging apps (including Telegram, Cryptocat and Silent Text) also offer end-to-end-encryption, but WhatsApp’s implementation is the largest yet, affecting hundreds of millions of its 600 hundred million iOS and Android users.
The encryption itself is being provided by Open Whisper Systems via open source messaging app Text Sure. Open Whisper CTO Moxie Marlinspike told The Verge that work on the implementation began just after WhatsApp was bought by Facebook for $16 billion in February this year.
Following this acquisition WhatsApp users were worried that the acquisition would mean a subsequent loss of privacy, but Koum responded in a blog post saying “respect for your privacy is coded into our DNA”.
“We built WhatsApp around the goal of knowing as little about you as possible,” wrote Koum. “Our focus remains on delivering the promise of WhatsApp far and wide, so that people around the world have the freedom to speak their mind without fear.”