Reporters are horrified by the news that WhatsApp is providing its users with full access to private messages. And the government can view this information? What is the solution? A guide from the FBI does not explain how physical access to a device can be accessed by law enforcement. And while end-to-end encryption would prevent a hacker from reading private messages, it will not prevent governments from accessing a device, according to the ACLU’s Daniel Kahn Gillmor.
WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption
WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption isn’t perfect, but it’s far from unbreakable. It collects metadata about groups and activity records, but it can’t link the information to the message’s originator. Because of this, it has sued the government over the metadata collected. If the government is able to gain access to this data, it could potentially be used to track down users or collect data for a variety of reasons.
The company has been hit by privacy activists in recent years. Facebook has resisted calls to implement a backdoor for law enforcement, and WhatsApp has been hit by lawsuits from privacy advocates. It’s also been hit by class-action suits and has been forced to delay plans to implement end-to-end encryption. Its reliance on end-to-end encryption is a potential problem for government surveillance, but the company is working hard to combat the backlash and protect its users’ privacy.
The DEA and other law enforcement agencies have been using pen-register orders to on WhatsApp users in the United States. The DEA has sought court approval for the use of this surveillance technique, which records data on call duration, source, and destination of messages. Although the app does not collect the contents of messages, it is still a legitimate way to monitor the lives of people and track down fugitives.
Trap and trace devices
If you have a smartphone, do you wonder if the government can monitor your WhatsApp chats? It is possible to “clone” WhatsApp data onto another device. Then, a forensic expert can retrieve all types of data, including call records, text messages, images, and WhatsApp chats. The free android spy apps can even access the phone’s cloud service and other apps. What’s more, he or she will know the person’s location in real time.
Reporters’ access to private messages
While the privacy of private conversations on WhatsApp is a huge concern, the use of secure messaging is also important for whistleblowers, political activists, and journalists talking to sources. Even if a private conversation does not fall into the hands of a government agency, it could still be damaging. Without the consent of the sender, private chats may be shared without their knowledge or consent on social media, with reporters, and can end up in civil trials.
But while Facebook does not see the content of users’ WhatsApp conversations, the information is collected by contractors who work for the company. This data could include child pornography, potential terrorist plots, or fraud. Reporters’ access to private messages on WhatsApp comes when users hit the “report” button. Users must identify the message they feel violates the terms of service, which means that it is not encrypted. Moreover, WhatsApp has a policy requiring the sender to name the message that violates their privacy.