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Facebook’s WhatsApp boosts end-to-end encryption amid scrutiny

‘We’re adding another layer of privacy and security’ – Zuckerberg.
Image: Bloomberg
Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said the company is expanding end-to-end encryption on its WhatsApp messaging service.

Texts sent on WhatsApp are already protected so that they can only be seen by the sender and recipient. People have been able to back up their messages in the cloud, using Alphabet Inc..’s Google Drive and Apple Inc.’s icloud. But, while WhatsApp doesn’t have access to those backups, Apple and Google potentially do.

Now, Facebook will allow users to choose to enable end-to-end encryption on their backups as well, meaning neither WhatsApp nor the cloud-service providers will be able to access them.

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“We’re adding another layer of privacy and security,” Zuckerberg said in a blog post Friday. “WhatsApp is the first global messaging service at this scale to offer end-to-end encrypted messaging and backups, and getting there was a really hard technical challenge.”

The move arrives as Facebook faces scrutiny over its privacy policies for the messaging service. Earlier this week, ProPublica published a report highlighting how contract workers sift through millions of private messages that have been flagged by users as potentially abusive. The nonprofit investigative organization subsequently made clear that WhatsApp doesn’t break the end to end encryption.

Meanwhile, government officials have been encouraging Facebook and other tech companies to roll back encryption of messaging products to make investigating crimes easier.

© 2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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