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WhatsApp: privacy vs. transparency

Wednesday, 6 April, 2016

“We live in a world where more of our data is digitized than ever before. Every day we see stories about sensitive records being improperly accessed or stolen. And if nothing is done, more of people’s digital information and communication will be vulnerable to attack in the years to come. Fortunately, end-to-end encryption protects us from these vulnerabilities.”

So say WhatsApp co-founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton in their latest blog post, which is about their decision to protect messages between WhatsApp users with an end-to-end encryption protocol so that third parties and WhatsApp cannot read them, meaning that the messages can only be decrypted by the recipient.

In light of the Panama Papers exposé, the debate about privacy vs. transparency has reached a new level. Would Mossack Fonseca have profited from end-to-end encryption of communications between their officers and clients? Public opinion suggests that the massive leak of the Panamanian law firm’s data is a civic benefit and that transparency is the greater good. Jan Koum and Brian Acton, however, are now promising that the end-to-end encryption protocol they’re deploying will make it impossible for “third parties” (police, journalists, etc.) to access chats, group chats, images, videos, voice messages and files on their platform. Given this, will it be possible for people to have a consistent position on privacy vs. transparency? Can both co-exist?

Update: privacy vs. transparency: Meet the ‘Drone Vigilante’ Who Spies on Sex Workers.


Comments (1)

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  1. Henry Barth says:

    The only ‘safe’ and ‘private’ internet experience is to stay off it.

    Anything you want kept to yourself belongs on a computer which is never, ever, connected to the internet.