WhatsApp, the instant messaging app from Facebook is among the top messaging app in the world. People all around the world use WhatsApp to communicate with their family, loved ones, friends, colleagues, and customers. It has now crossed a whopping 2 billion active users around the world. Just to put that in perspective, that is more than a quarter of the world’s population using WhatsApp daily to communicate with others. Its fast and feature-rich messaging option has enabled billions of people to use it as their main form of communications.
WhatsApp had hit 1.5 billion users worldwide back in 2018. That means it took almost two years for WhatsApp to add 500 million more users to its platform. WhatsApp sees most of its users from developing countries like India, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, etc. The app was first developed by 2 former employees of Yahoo back in 2009. Later in 2014, Facebook took it under its umbrella for a whopping $19 Billion. After getting acquired by Facebook, WhatsApp has gone through many changes like end-to-end encryption, status feature, WhatsApp Web, WhatsApp business, and more, and here we are. 2 Billion people from around the world are now using it in their day to day life.
When so many people use something, it raises questions about security and privacy, especially when it is connected to Facebook. And it seems WhatsApp is all aware of it. In a blog post to announce the 2 Billion active user news, WhatsApp talked a great deal about how WhatsApp is using end-to-end encryption to enable secure and unbreakable messaging.
In the blog post, WhatsApp said:
“Private conversations that once were only possible face-to-face can now take place across great distances through instant chats and video calling. There are so many significant and special moments that take place over WhatsApp and we are humbled and honored to reach this milestone.”– WhatsApp Blog
WhatsApp believes that strong encryption acts “like an unbreakable digital lock that keeps the information you send” secure from hackers and criminals. It also says that strong encryption is a “necessity in modern life” and that they will not compromise on its security because that would make “people less safe.”
While WhatsApp says that they care a lot about users’ privacy and security, it is also worth noting that Facebook is planning to integrate all of its platforms. If/when that happens, many experts believe that would weaken the encryption of WhatsApp. And also there is the concern of Facebook adding ads to WhatsApp. Facebook has spent $19 Billion to purchase WhatsApp and Facebook is making nothing out of it so far. Facebook will eventually monetize WhatsApp and that may also affect the security of the application.
And then there are government agencies around the world asking Facebook to create some sort of ‘backdoor‘ to WhatsApp for tracking ‘criminals.’ So far Facebook has not done anything to add a backdoor. As once reported by BuzzFeed, U.S. attorney William Barr had requested Facebook and Mark Zuckerburg to weaken its encryption in order to allow law enforcement agencies to assist in investigations. Later, WhatsApp responded in a letter:
“The ‘backdoor’ access you are demanding for law enforcement would be a gift to criminals, hackers and repressive regimes, creating a way for them to enter our systems and leaving every person on our platforms more vulnerable to real-life harm. It is simply impossible to create such a backdoor for one purpose and not expect others to try and open it.”-Cathcart & Stan Chudnovsky
There is no doubt that WhatsApp is a great tool to connect with people. But at the same time, privacy is a concern for many people. It will be interesting to see how WhatsApp is going to evolve both in terms of privacy and features in the future.