Considering WhatsApp is used by over two billion people around the world, keeping the messaging platform secure is critical. WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned instant messaging application, has often said that all communications on the platform are safe and confidential and that no third party, including WhatsApp, may access them. However, certain recent events involving the breach of WhatsApp chats paint a different picture.
As a result of WhatsApp’s public relations disaster, tens of millions of people have switched to other networks. Following an outcry over data sharing with Facebook, millions more are intending to do the same. Users have expressed concern, asking, “How can anyone be sure that the encryption WhatsApp promises to employ is the one deployed in their apps?”
WhatsApp claims that all communications on its platform are protected by end-to-end encryption. Not only are these encryption keys impossibly difficult to decrypt, but they also block third-party entities, like WhatsApp, from intercepting messages or calls. Only the user and the person or group with whom they’re communicating can read or see the messages, photographs, or files they exchange or listen to the calls they make.
Although WhatsApp still uses end-to-end encryption, it collects more information about us. WhatsApp’s encryption doesn’t prevent users from this kind of data collecting, but all of that information is now accessible by Facebook, WhatsApp’s parent firm. That means critical data might still be stolen if the servers where Facebook maintains personal information are hacked. Furthermore, the recent announcement of a 500-million-user data leak doesn’t somehow instil confidence in Facebook’s data security safeguards.
This news was accompanied by the unveiling of Apple’s new “privacy label” feature. The feature was officially launched at the end of 2020, and it requires App Store apps to disclose what data they acquire on customers. Users can now see that, even though WhatsApp uses end-to-end encryption by default for all messaging, it
nevertheless gathers metadata such as GPS data, contacts, identifying information (such as user ID), and transactions. It also shares all of this information with Facebook.
WhatsApp is now trying to strike back against self-inflicted damage caused by a forced term of service modification that came soon after Apple’s privacy labelling revealed the company’s vast data collecting. For the corporation, it was a chaotic PR disaster. While it has reneged on its ‘take it or leave it’ ultimatum, there has been no repentance on the scope of the data collecting. One can’t resist but presume WhatsApp will have to do more, given how eagerly its competitors embrace enough escaping WhatsApp users to strain their servers.
Signal and Telegram, two WhatsApp competitors, have gained the most out of the company’s misstep. However, they are vastly different, and the WhatsApp vs. Telegram vs. Signal argument has revealed just how oblivious most users are of these crucial distinctions. Sadly, almost all of the articles covering WhatsApp’s flaws and alternatives don’t address any of the ambiguity. This puts the user in jeopardy.
The most intriguing part of the WhatsApp migration is the rise of new users to Telegram. Just to be clear: while Signal is a more secure version of WhatsApp, Telegram is nothing like it. It’s a vastly separate platform, with a different goal in mind. Telegram is still not end-to-end encrypted by default, and secret chats only operate between two devices—they don’t encompass groups, and they have to be deliberately selected.
Law enforcement and large corporations have intensified pressure on organizations to hand up user information or construct security holes that they can use to retrieve user data, such as messages, in the future, according to WhatsApp CEO Will Cathcart. WhatsApp users, on the other hand, tend to be concerned about the metadata collected, irrespective of end-to-end encrypted conversations. People may be less eager to accept the app now that information collecting is required to utilise it.
According to reports, WhatsApp is working on password-protected encrypted iCloud backups. iCloud customers will be able to create encrypted backups of their WhatsApp data that will require credentials to access once the service is available. It would presumably be more secure since users would be able to encrypt their data before transferring it to the cloud. Although the upgrade is still in beta, WhatsApp may be able to recoup some of its user community if it can rollout this update quickly enough.