One of the main selling points of WhatsApp is that the service automatically encrypts messages. This means no third-party gets their hands on your messages when they are sent, not even WhatsApp. However, that may not be entirely true as the Facebook-owned company has made an interesting admission.
One of WhatsApp’s big recent announcements has been a partnership with Google. The collaboration allows users to store their WhatsApp messages on Google Drive without hitting the free quota.
Google’s cloud storage service provides users with 15GB of free space. Before the partnership, WhatsApp messages ate into that free quota, now they don’t. There is a trade off though as the company admits messages stored in Google Drive are not encrypted.
There are a few things to consider here. Firstly, there is no obligation to back up messages to Google Drive, so it’s not like WhatsApp is being deceptive. If you don’t back up, your messages will remain fully encrypted.
However, it would be interesting to know if messages were previously encrypted when they would use free Drive storage quotas. In other words, was the price of this partnership WhatsApp giving Google access to user messages? We know Google uses data from its own service for advertising.
It does now seem messages from WhatsApp comes with the “always encrypted, accept” caveat. Again, if you don’t like it, simply don’t backup your messages to Google Drive.
There is still no doubt that WhatsApp has been a leader in end-to-end encryption. The service has protected user messages (insisting even it cannot read messages) for year. In fact, it is only now rival Microsoft is brining encryption to Skype, and still in a limited capacity.
Last month, the company rolled out its Private Conversations feature to all Skype users. Users can enter into chats that have end-to-end encryption for audio, text, and file exchanges. This is achieved through the special Private Conversations section of the app, meaning not all messages are encrypted in a regular chat.