WhatsApp's introduction of end-to-end encryption for all texts, voice calls and videos sent by its users would bar security agencies in India to access content sent on the popular messaging giant.
Devices with the latest version of WhatsApp will now be encrypted by default, which means content sent through the messaging service are secured. WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum announced the update on his Facebook page Tuesday, saying that the feature will keep "people's information out of the hands of hackers and cyber-criminals."
"We've been working for the past two years to give people better security over their conversations on WhatsApp. I'm proud of our team for hitting this milestone: now every message, photo, video, file, and voice message you send, is end-to-end encrypted by default if you and the people you message use the latest version of our app. Even your group chats and voice calls are encrypted," wrote Koum.
WhatsApp has now put up an advisory to its users that reads: "Messages you send to this chat and calls are now secured with end-to-end encryption."
However, the new move may not go down well with the Indian government, which appears to be sceptic about encryption. Last year, the draft proposal prepared by the government suggested people using encrypted services to keep the data for at least 90 days, but it was pulled back following criticism.
Security agencies too have expressed concern, claiming that the end-to-end encryption feature in WhatsApp can be misused by anti-national elements and criminals.
"The move is a potential security threat," a security official told Press Trust of India (PTI).
WhatsApp introduced the new feature close on the heels of the fight between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Apple Inc. over encryption. The Cupertino giant has been pressurised by the U.S. government to provide the FBI the passcode required to unlock the iPhone 5C belonging to San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook. Apple CEO Tim Cook refused to unlock the iPhone despite an order by a U.S. judge.
Technology giants beefed up internet security after former National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden made a shocking revelation in 2013 over the U.S. government's mass surveillance programmes.
Google currently uses HTTPS for Gmail and has announced its plan to spread the same across its products. HTTPS is a mechanism that allows a browser or app to securely connect with a website and it relies on SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) to secure the connection.