The Facebook-owned company has started encrypting (using a 256-bit key) voice calls as well as messages sent by its users. Whatsapp released a statement and said that the most important point in their core beliefs is protecting private messages. This move is the first step towards protecting data. The question is, will Whatsapp allow law enforcement agencies to access users’ ‘encrypted’ data?
This setting would be updated in phase by phase manner and users would be notified about the same. The feature was enabled for the first set of users (those using latest version of the app) on Tuesday (April 6th).
NGOs and law enforcement agencies around the world seemed completely divided on this issue. Non-profit called-Amnesty International released a statement in support of the change. The organization shared their opinion that Whatsapp’s move would enable people to communicate without fear.
James Baker is one of FBI’s attorneys. He criticized Whatsapp’s statement, and said that law enforcement’s power to investigate would be threatened if messaging service provider denies requests to access messages. It would also compromise people’s safety.
To understand Mumbai police’s opinion about this move, I interacted with Mumbai’s Additional Police Commissioner Quaiser Khalid.
ACP- Quaiser Khalid
“Encryption is a safety procedure adopted by companies which operate under the legal framework of the country where their servers are located. Hence, so long as data is available for a genuine legal purpose, encryption doesn’t matter, said IPS officer Quaiser Khalid while sharing his opinion about the issue in an email interaction with me.
“As of now, I have not come across any claims suggesting that the company has denied a request for data, received from appropriate agencies. Legal question would arise if Whatsapp refuses to share data with law enforcement agencies in appropriate cases,” said Mumbai’s tech savvy top cop.
Let’s hope that widely used instant messaging tool does not make things difficult for investigative agencies around the world like Apple Inc. and Blackberry. Perhaps, picture would become clear during the next few months.