WhatsApp Just Made Encrypted Messaging Popular

WhatsApp has joined Telegram, TextSecure, and many other secure messaging apps, enabling end-to-end encryption when sending texts and multimedia messages. An encrypted messenger has become the one of the most popular ways to communicate.

WhatsApp has joined Telegram, TextSecure, and many other secure messaging apps, enabling end-to-end encryption when sending texts and multimedia messages.

This decision marks an amazing occasion: an encrypted messenger just became one of the most popular ways to communicate. Overnight its 1 billion worldwide monthly active users' communications “went dark”--out of the reach of any prying eyes. Messages between users began being encrypted, meaning no one—not even WhatsApp—could read the contents of a message if they wanted. The message stays between you and the intended recipient.

“End-to-end encryption helps make communication via WhatsApp private – sort of like a face-to-face conversation,” WhatsApp founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton wrote in a statement.

Now picture, video, and text messages will be encrypted between WhatsApp users automatically, provided they have latest version of the app on their phone.

The move shows just how much defaults rule our world. After all, many Americans' want to decide the level of privacy their comfortable with on the internet, but most don't know how to attain it. Computer security guru Bruce Schneier hit the nail on the head when he wrote, “Encryption works best if it's ubiquitous and automatic. The two forms of encryption you use most often — HTTPS URLs on your browser, and the handset-to-tower link for your cellphone calls — work so well because you don't even know they're there.”

Encryption--what helps our digital lives stay private and secure--should be seamlessly embedded into our software. Users shouldn't have to download special apps in order to have a private conversation, and WhatsApp's founders understand that desire on a personal level.

“The desire to protect people's private communication is one of the core beliefs we have at WhatsApp, and for me, it's personal,” they wrote. “I grew up in the USSR during communist rule and the fact that people couldn't speak freely is one of the reasons my family moved to the United States.”

This month more than a billion people will be communicating to one another over WhatsApp, sending secure, private messages to one another. They will be speaking to one another as if they were behind closed doors, talking face-to-face. Shouldn't all communication feel this way?


***

Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Natalie has been writing professionally for about 6 years. After graduating from Ithaca College with a degree in Feature Writing, she snagged a job at PCMag.com where she had the opportunity to review all the latest consumer gadgets. Since then she has become a writer for hire, freelancing for various websites. In her spare time, you may find her riding her motorcycle, reading YA novels, hiking, or playing video games. Follow her on Twitter: @nat_schumaker

Related Articles

Why drawing isn’t just an art

There's a growing understanding that drawing is much more than an art form: it's a powerful tool for learning.

(GoaShape via Unsplash)
Mind & Brain
  • We often think of drawing as something that takes innate talent, but this kind of thinking stems from our misclassification of drawing as, primarily, an art form rather than a tool for learning.
  • Researchers, teachers, and artists are starting to see how drawing can positively impact a wide variety of skills and disciplines.
  • Drawing is not an innate gift; rather, it can be taught and developed. Doing so helps people to perceive the world more accurately, remember facts better, and understand their world from a new perspective.
Keep reading Show less

4 new personality types revealed by huge study

It may be simpler than we thought.

(Anna Palm de Rosa, Public Domain)
Surprising Science
  • An analysis of a massive amount of data reveals four new personality types.
  • The study is the first to take self-reporting out of the equation.
  • The four new types are "average," "reserved," "self-centered," and "role model".
Keep reading Show less

Why the “slow metabolism” is a myth

Despite its prominence in our collective imagination, variations in metabolism play a minor role in obesity.

Photo: Science Photo Library
Surprising Science
  • Vox senior health correspondent Julia Belluz spent a day inside of a metabolic chamber at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center.
  • Her 90 minutes on stationary cycle only burned 405 calories, just 17% of the day's total calories.
  • Resting metabolism uses up the bulk of the body's energy.
Keep reading Show less