The founders of messaging service WhatsApp, Brian Acton and Jan Koum, on Tuesday, said that the company has added end-to-end encryption to every form of communication on its service.
This includes messages, calls, photos and videos.
Wired reported that WhatsApp, which is now owned by tech giant Facebook, has grown into one of the worldâ€™s most important applications. It added:
More than a billion people trade messages, make phone calls, send photos, and swap videos using the service. This means that only Facebook itself runs a larger self-contained communications network....if any group of people uses the latest version of WhatsApp - whether that group spans two people or ten - the service will encrypt everything.
So what does end-to-end encryption mean?
In a blog post on the official website, the company said:
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 cybercriminals. Not hackers. Not oppressive regimes. Not even us. End-to-end encryption helps make communication via WhatsApp private â€“ sort of like a face-to-face conversation.
Further explaining how end-to-end encryption works, WhatsApp stated that â€śyour messages are secured with a lock, and only the recipient and you have the special key needed to unlock and read them. For added protection, every message you send has its own unique lock and key. All of this happens automatically: no need to turn on settings or set up special secret chats to secure your messages.â€ť
Talking about the consequences of the decision, The Telegraph reported that this would not affect how one uses WhatsApp on a daily basis, but "makes it much more difficult for WhatsApp to provide law enforcement or other governmental authorities copies of any of your communications, even if requested by warrant, because of the strength of the encryption."
There are a handful of visible signs that encryption has kicked in. A text bubble now appears at the top of every new chat confirming that messages and calls are now end-to-end encrypted, if everyone participating in that conversation has the latest version of the app. Users also can manually verify that a chat is encrypted by scanning a unique QR code or comparing a 60-digit string of numbers that is generated for each chat.