The Wall Street Journal reports that WhatsApp has been updated with end-to-end encryption for messages sent and received between Android smartphones and tablets. The cross-platform messaging service claims it will be unable to help decrypt messages for law enforcement, a noteworthy move given increasing concerns about government surveillance and tracking over the past few years.
The latest version of WhatsApp for Android automatically encrypts messages, with no further action required by the user. The additional security layer does not apply to group messages or media messages, nor does it apply to messages sent or received between an Android device and an iPhone or other non-Android smartphone or tablet.
While other services like iMessage for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch also utilize end-to-end encryption, those messages sent between Apple devices are still backed up to the company’s servers by default. iOS users can turn off iCloud Backup through Settings, although those that don’t make their personal data available to law enforcement upon request.
Both the United States government and Federal Bureau of Investigation have expressed concern over Google’s latest encryption measures in place on Android Lollipop. FBI director James Comey claimed in September that, while he is a believer in the rule of law, companies should not be able to market a product “expressly to allow people to place themselves above the law.”
Given the increasing push for heightened privacy measures, following reports such as the U.S. Department of Justice using fake cell towers on airplanes to capture data from mobile phones, it is unsurprising that major tech companies like Facebook-owned WhatsApp are taking aggressive steps towards locking down their products and services to be as secure as possible.
WhatsApp Messenger is free on Google Play for Android.