WhatsApp with over 1 billion users world-wide have added end-to-end encryption to all of its messages – meaning that the company couldn’t give information to governments, even if it wanted to.
The latest version of the app will use security technology that means that messages can’t be intercepted as they travel between devices. Encryption ensures that only a message’s sender and recipient can read messages, stopping them from being intercepted on their journey.
That fact has meant that strong, or end-to-end, encryption has led to public disagreements between technology companies and governments. In the UK, politicians have proposed banning such technologies, forcing companies to install “backdoors” that would weaken that security so that messages can be read by spies.
The White House is also declining to offer public support for draft legislation that would empower judges to require technology companies such as Apple Inc to help law enforcement crack encrypted data.
The decision all but assures that the years-long political impasse over encryption will continue even in the wake of the high-profile effort by the Department of Justice to force Apple to break into an iPhone used by a gunman in last December’s shootings in San Bernardino, California.
President Obama suggested in remarks last month that he had come around to the view that law enforcement agencies needed to have a way to gain access to encrypted information on smartphones.
But the administration remains deeply divided on the issue, the sources said.
The draft legislation from Senators Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein, the Republican chair and top Democrat respectively of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is expected to be introduced as soon as this week.
The bill gives federal judges broad authority to order tech companies to help the government but does not spell out what companies might have to do or the circumstances under which they could be ordered to help, according to sources familiar with the text. It also does not create specific penalties for noncompliance.
On the part of the general public, there is a sigh of relieve. No more worrying about who reads your messages or who stalks you. People hope that the telecommunication sector follows suit soon.