WhatsApp for iPhone spotted with end-to-end encryption for iCloud backup, here’s what it means for you
WhatsApp promises end-to-end encryption for its app, which means any text message or file you send through WhatsApp has the highest form of security available in regular digital communications. The scenario, however, changes when these messages are stored in the cloud.
Any chat backup stored in the cloud, Google Drive, or iCloud is accessible by third parties through cloud service providers. Such cases are usually seen when the authorities in a region need such discussions for an investigation.
In order to bring more privacy in this area, WhatsApp is now working on securing cloud backups for WhatsApp chats. The company was recently seen testing it on a beta version of Android. Now it looks like he has prepared the feature for iOS users as well.
A new screenshot shared by WABetaInfo on Twitter recently hints at the development. The screenshot shows an option to enable end-to-end encrypted backup which will back up WhatsApp users’ chats and media to iCloud and protect them from “unauthorized access”. The post says encryption will be available to Apple users in a future update.
(Image: WABetaInfo / Twitter)
WhatsApp has worked tirelessly in this direction, and the recent update proves the same. After Android, iCloud encryption shows the company is testing the feature for all of its users and may soon roll it out globally.
For data privacy advocates, the timing couldn’t have been better. Indeed, Apple recently announced its intention to thwart the distribution of child pornography (CSAM) on its network. The proposal includes a hash mechanism that will analyze photos of Apple users stored on iCloud against predefined templates depicting child sexual abuse.
While Apple’s intention is noble, several experts have expressed concerns about how Apple will execute it. At the very least, such hashing mechanisms are inaccurate in nature and could mark a file completely irrelevant as CSAM. The files will then appear on Apple’s servers for manual verification, where a human is very likely to see them before any further action.
There are other threats to data privacy as well, such as Apple’s future motivations to use the feature or government intervention from any country in which Apple operates. Backend access to data is expected to compromise user privacy and there are several possible scenarios where it can be misused.
WhatsApp CEO Will Cathcart raised such concerns against Apple’s tool in a series of tweets earlier, categorically stating that WhatsApp will not embrace Apple’s new feature once it launches.
WhatsApp’s cloud encryption will be proof of this commitment. Those who wish to register will be able to keep their chat history and media safe in the cloud. Since it will be available for Android and iOS users, the feature will work with both Google Drive and iCloud.
A password will then be used to access or retrieve this chat backup. This password will be private and will not be shared with WhatsApp, Facebook, Google or Apple. Users can also create and use a 64-digit encryption key for the same purpose. Keep in mind though that losing the password and encryption key will lock your account forever without any other recovery mechanism.