This is one of the largest and most relevant developments in the ecosystem instant messaging over the Internet. Here we tell you why.
WhatsApp announced that from Tuesday, all communications traveling through the messaging application have encryption end to end, which in other words means that only users in a conversation can know the contents of this: neither WhatsApp, neither the authorities, no.
The announcement blanket all mobile operating systems and all forms of communication platform: video, text messages, voice messages, calls. This new feature is enabled by default when the user upgrades to the latest version of the application.
What this means is that WhatsApp just delivered fully encrypted communications that do not require any technical knowledge or installation by the user, to more than 1,000 million people worldwide (and especially outside the United States). (Read “Learn what it is and what is the importance of encryption”)
This is no small matter, because in today’s world, where most governments seek to intervene talks of its citizens (legally and illegally), the application just made a delivery of technical means, ready to be used, which prevent electronic espionage. The company characterizes such a personal way, as analogous: “It’s like restore the power of face – to – face.” Yes, true, only on a global scale.
The change was not an impromptu move, as the company lasted at least year and a half designing a platform to give each user a private key to decrypt each passing through the platform message. In turn, these keys must be compatible across platforms, devices and operating systems. And in a universe of more than 1,000 million users, this is not an easy task.
Just at the last conference RightsCon of Silicon Valley, which ended this April 1, a representative of the company referred to the draft encryption and said he was almost ready when, on March 1, Brazilian police arrested a senior executive Facebook at the refusal of WhatsApp (property of the social network) to disseminate messages about users involved in a criminal investigation.
At that time, part of public opinion (both in Brazil and outside) was in favor of the authorities to consider, with a warrant in hand, it was the duty of the messaging application cooperate with the authorities. This is a debate that is still open, but perhaps at that time the company could no longer access messages on behalf of end to end encryption on your platform.
One of those attending RightsCon questioned the representative of WhatsApp about why not communicate in a better way how to work the platform architecture to understand publicly that deliver messages nor is it a simple matter, even with a court order in half. His answer was: “Stay tuned.”
And the tune led, ultimately, when Tuesday in which users of the platform began to receive a message in which it was announced that the conversation with another person was now encrypted from end to end, from end to end.
With some confidence, the message was not only unexpected, but strange to many. Quickly, in online forums like Reddit, many people began to ask what this meant for them, if it was a mistake, what to do, if they could continue using the application.
The quick answer to these questions is: none of this affects the daily use of the application, because all the work encryption makes WhatsApp below communication as such, out of sight of the user. Beyond update the application, there is much more to do.
One of the project managers encryption, a programmer known as Moxie Marlinspike (who is also behind Signal, another application encrypted messaging), said the change in WhatsApp is still following its course through the entire platform, so some users may experience it first than others, but that just is an irreversible matter.
The message also had a surprise for people in the administration of justice of Brazil, who twice have taken legal action to try to get messages from people linked to criminal investigations.
In addition to briefly stop a Facebook executive, as already said, also took the decision to suspend the application service nationwide while the company provided the requested communications. At the end of the day, a judge found that the initial measure was excessive and disproportionate and ordered the restoration of WhatsApp in this country.
Another institution with some confidence that should not see with good eyes the announcement, which ultimately was just something that was seen coming, is the United States Department of Justice and the FBI.
The two organizations lasted one month of intense public debate to force Apple to break the iPhone security of one of the attackers San Bernardino, California, shooting in which 14 people died.
Part of the debate at this point revolves around the scope of governments to intervene communications of citizens and in turn, of the powers of private companies to technologically difficult this task. Ultimately, the FBI found an external provider (quite possibly the Israeli company Cellebrite) to unlock the phone, but kept the controversy alive. (Read “The doubts that were left after the battle between Apple and the FBI”)
In an interview with this newspaper, Javier Pallero analyst organization Access Now (which is behind the organization RightsCon, for example) said that “the fact that some communications are encrypted does not mean that a whole apparatus necessarily it is encrypted and is in the darkness beyond the reach of law enforcement.
It can be analyzed using lines, caloric footprint device. There is also the monitoring of social networks, for example, it is one of the main means of recruiting Islamic State. That is neither in the Deep Web, nor prohibit TOR needed to reach that, nor curb encryption. There are more technological tools to achieve these goals surveillance and security. “( Read “The battle to protect the encryption”)
The pulse intervene encryption technologies is not a matter to come this week and its implications certainly affect the future development of the technology itself, but also the exercise of rights such as privacy in digital environments.
Shares of WhatsApp just stoke this discussion and, ultimately, put in the daily reality of more than 1,000 million people terms as encrypted communications. Only this point is already a success for the definition of fundamental rights in the digital age.