WhatsApp is making a big push for privacy, adding end-to-end encryption to its Android app. This means the company could not decrypt the messages itself, even if compelled to by a government body.
WhatsApp is using source code from Open Whisper Systems, which powers several other security-focused texting apps. It isn’t the first to enable this type of encryption, but WhatsApp is the largest and most prominent messaging service to do so. Other privacy-focused messaging apps include Cyberdust, which has not exactly taken off in popularity. Often the inconvenience of signing up for yet another service and convincing your friends to switch just isn’t worth it.
It’s unclear if the encryption will come to the WhatsApp iOS app. It would certainly be welcome, though it's not quite as necessary: iMessage already uses an encryption method that prevents stores and sends messages in an encrypted fashion, and prevents Apple from being able to decrypt them.
Why this matters: WhatsApp is the largest messaging service to adopt end-to-end encryption. It has over 600 million users across its Android and iOS apps. The demand for privacy is on the rise, as companies are loathe to hand over data to government agencies. While there’s never a 100 percent guarantee that even the highest level of security can’t be cracked, this could attract even more people to check out WhatsApp.