Does Facebook ‘secretly’ read your WhatsApp messages?

According to many news, Facebook’s privacy violations also concern the messaging service. It is not inconceivable that Facebook secretly reads your WhatsApp messages.

Last week there was a lot of news about the alleged privacy violations of Facebook. And it looks like it’s also WhatsApp (part of). That was the fear before, and this new warning that it reads encrypted WhatsApp messages “undermines the privacy protections of its 2 billion users.”

Facebook reads WhatsApp messages

Ever since Facebook took over the messaging service for a huge sum, there have been concerns. WhatsApp is the largest and therefore has the most users. And that fell into the hands of the largest data harvester ever. That’s why everyone was so angry when WhatsApp so unwisely insisted that users accept new terms of service. This opened the door to more exchange of data. And that’s why any suggestion that Facebook is compromising WhatsApp security hits hard.

The latest news stems from an original article in ProPublica last week. It states that WhatsApp’s “1,000 contract workers fill floors of office buildings in Austin, Texas, Dublin and Singapore… using special Facebook software to navigate through millions of private messages, images and videos.” The idea alone is something to be content with: Facebook hiring content critics to search millions of seemingly end-to-end encrypted WhatsApp messengers could easily undermine trust in a platform used by 2 billion users. But the detail here is everything.

Is it really so?

Yesterday we wrote that WhatsApp is working hard on privacy. And that’s right. But there was confusion about WhatsApp’s encryption being breached, that the end-to-end encryption isn’t as private as we all think. This shows the level of misunderstanding about what end-to-end encryption is and what it isn’t. There is no encryption breach here and thankfully ProPublica has cleared up the misunderstanding. Facebook therefore does not read your WhatsApp messages.

“An earlier version of this story,” the update said, “caused inadvertent confusion about the extent to which WhatsApp examines its users’ messages and whether it breaks the encryption that keeps the exchanges secret. We’ve changed the language in the story to make it clear that the company only investigates messages from threads that have been reported by users as potentially offensive. It does not break end-to-end encryption.”

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