WhatsApp is updating its messenger app so that every text and voice call on one of the world’s most popular apps will be protected with strong encryption – potentially putting millions more conversations outside the purview of authorities.
The development at the messenger company – which is owned by Facebook – is striking given Silicon Valley’s recent staredown with authorities over user data privacy.
The FBI dropped a court battle with Apple over its iPhone encryption and Brazilian police recently arrested a Facebook executive because WhatsApp couldn’t provide messages sent by a criminal suspect.
None of that appears to have deterred WhatsApp founder Jan Koum who grew up in Soviet-era Ukraine amid surveillance fears and has said that he often heard his mother say things like ‘This isn’t a telephone conversation’.
‘The desire to protect people’s private communication is one of the core beliefs we have at WhatsApp and for me it’s personal’ Koum wrote in a blog post published Tuesday.
‘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’.