Google, Facebook and Whatsapp look to improve user data encryption
Mon 14 Mar 2016
Tech giants including Google, Facebook, Whatsapp and Snapchat are looking to increase the privacy of user data by expanding their encryption features. The recent reports mark growing industry support for Apple in its fight to not allow authorities backdoor access into users’ devices.
Facebook has suggested that it is increasing privacy of its Messenger service, while its instant messaging app Whatsapp also confirmed that it would be extending its encryption offering to secure voice calls. Since 2014, the mobile platform has been adding to its user data encryption tools, making it harder for law enforcement bodies to spy on private communications. Messages on Android and iOS are already encrypted, and now the company is planning to introduce a similar system for voice messages and group chats.
Sources familiar with the expanded Whatsapp features told The Guardian that the app’s encryption would be based on code developed by privacy guru Moxie Marlinspike. One of the key advantages of Moxie’s software is that it has been tried and tested repeatedly by leading security experts.
Others reportedly joining the industry shift include Snapchat, which is working on securing its messaging service, and search heavyweight Google, which is currently developing an encrypted email project.
End to End will enable users to send encrypted emails decipherable only by the sender and recipient. According to those familiar with the project, which initially took a while to get off the ground, development has suddenly picked up pace and engineers are now considering its application within other products.
In addition to this strategic support, tech firms have also made legal moves to back Apple’s court case with the Department of Justice, with amicus briefs from Google, Facebook, Snapchat, Amazon, and Microsoft. Other U.S. tech companies have shown interest in helping to stamp out extremist communications online. Twitter recently claimed that it suspended over 125,000 accounts which it felt ‘threatened or promoted terrorist acts, primarily related to ISIS.’
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