The encryption debate continues in the US, but it appears that tech companies are not waiting for the courts to reach a decision. A report claims that WhatsApp is working on adding encryption to voice calls, which will prevent anyone from listening in to conversations.
Details of the upcoming encryption are as of yet unknown. The Guardian newspaper reports that there will be an official announcement in the coming weeks, although it is not sure what the company has to say about the matter.
WhatsApp currently encrypts all text messages that pass through its systems, a feature that was introduced in 2014. The goal of the security feature was to prevent third parties from spying on messages being sent through the service. It has recently proven to be effective enough that a Facebook (which owns WhatsApp) executive ended up arrested in Brazil when the company told investigators that it is unable to access messages sent by drug traffickers.
Communication technology is reaching a critical moment in the privacy debate. Lawmakers in the US want companies to provide access to user messages for national security reasons, although the argument is that this access could be abused to spy on not only Americans, but also the rest of the world. On the other hand, terrorist groups like the Islamic State feel safe using these services as they are secure enough to allow the various cells to communicate without fear of being discovered.
At the same time, Europe is trying to weigh the benefits of encryption against national security. The French government has attempted to push through a bill that would require technology companies to allow backdoor access to their customer data. The United Kingdom has been similarly been leaning in the same direction.
Germany on the other hand has taken a different stance. Europe’s strongest economy has been fighting for improved encryption and is aiming to be the encryption capital of the world. This isn’t entirely surprising as German Chancellor Angela Merkel was one of the main critics of the NSA after Edward Snowden’s leaks in 2013.
The Guardian’s report also indicate that Facebook, Google, and Snapchat are also working on improved security for their products. Details of these plans are unknown, although Google is apparently working on a long coming encryption project for Gmail.
[Source: The Guardian]