WhatsApp has recently introduced the end-to-end security feature which is meant to help users maintain the privacy of their discussions. While the move has upset government agencies, privacy activists and security experts are cheering for it.
All one billion users of WhatsApp can now how secure discussions since not even the makers of the app can access them. In this way, the content sent over Whatsapp can only be viewed by the sender and the receiver. While the change comes as beneficial for the privacy of our personal lives, there are rising fears that terrorist might use the apps to communicate without being detected by the authorities. This, in turn, has sparked a great debate on national security versus encryption.
Encryption is meant to ensure that the data sent over various applications is read only by the user it was intended for. End-to-end encryption makes used of private and public keys. When a user sends data to someone, the information is encrypted by public keys, while the receiver has to use a private key in order to unlock it. The whole process is functioning thanks to a mathematical algorithm.
Most data transferred on the Internet, including pictures and videos, is sent without encryption. Only traffic related to communication such as private chats, email or messengers from social media platforms are encrypted. Whenever you buy something on the Internet or make a transaction, the medium should always be encrypted, and use the secure internet transfer protocol, HTTPS.
The case of Apple refusing to decrypt the smartphone of the San Bernardino shooter for the FBI has in the spotlight for weeks before the Federal Bureau of Investigation hired a team of hackers to do the job. This was when the whole controversy started because such encryption makes surveillance extremely difficult or impossible and thus, government agencies cannot prevent terrorist attacks. They have stated that a special backdoor should be created for such cases, but privacy activists and cyber security experts believe this would undermine the privacy of everyone.
However, if we take a look at the recent terrorist attacks that took place in Brussels, the murderers involved did not use encrypted apps, but disposable phones. So getting rid of this encryption would most certainly not solve the problem, but deepen it.
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