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How WhatsApp’s Latest Feature Works

A popular social media network owned by Facebook Media Company (WhatsApp), has begun to apply “end-to-end” encryption to standard messages sent on Android smartphones in 2014.

The decision is coming barely weeks after the biggest story out of Silicon Valley hit the airwaves, as Apple Technology Company battled with Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI, over a federal order to unlock the iPhone of a mass shooter.

Apple was reported to have declined the order which sparked off a searing debate over privacy and security in the digital age.

WhatsApp in a bid to protect its users from authorized and unauthorized orders to leak user’s chats and calls, has reinforced the default encryption settings for users so that all messages will now be accessible only to the sender and recipient.

According to Facebook, it is now using a powerful form of encryption to protect the security of photos, videos, group chats and voice calls in addition to the text messages sent by more than a billion users around the globe.

As at Tuesday, April 5, WhatsApp confirmed that the encryption now works with all forms of communication on its app for Android phones, Apple’s iPhones and other devices.

According to a blog post by WhatsApp’s co-founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton, “WhatsApp has always prioritised making your data and communication as secure as possible.”

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By implication, “When you send a message, the only person who can read it is the person or group chat that you send that message to,” the statement said.

“No one can see inside that message. Not cyber criminals. Not hackers. Not oppressive regimes. Not even us.”

Presently, Encryption has become a hotly debated subject, with some US authorities warning that criminals and armed groups can use it to hide their tracks.

In Brazil, encryption has already caused friction, as authorities recently arrested and then released a Facebook Executive after the company said it was unable to unscramble a user’s encrypted messages.

A Cyber Security Analyst and the co-director of ConnectSafely.org, Larry Magid, in an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera said, “There is a lot of controversy surrounding this, but a lot of people want encryption for legitimate reasons, such as making business deals, [and] for personal health information.”

Other social medium such as Google, Facebook and Yahoo, have disclosed that they use less extensive encryption to protect emails and messages while they are in transit, to prevent outsiders from eavesdropping.

Apple for instance, makes use of end-to-end encryption for its iMessage service, but some experts say WhatsApp’s method may be more secure, because it provides a security code that senders and recipients can use to verify a message came from someone they know and not from a hacker posing as a friend.

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