Why is WhatsApp end-to-end encryption legal for now, but maybe won’t be in future?

WhatsApp has started end-to-end encryption for all its offerings. The intended recipient can only see all calls, files, pictures, texts and video. Nobody including WhatsApp can access this data. Now WhatsApp cannot comply with government’s data requests as the former will not possess the decryption key. WhatsApp is following what Apple did in the Apple vs. FBI case; it’s preventing the government from accessing data but on a much bigger scale.

While Apple limited access to only iPhone users, now all WhatsApp users on all devices are protected. Around 51% of all users of internet messaging services in India utilize WhatsApp having a total of more than 70 million users. WhatsApp has now blocked the Indian government from accessing the calls as well as messages of minimum 70 million Indian users.

Telecom service providers as well internet service providers have to get a license from the Department of Telecommunications for providing such services in India. The license has many requirements such as license fees, providing emergency services, maintaining the confidentiality of customer data, and criteria for security, tracking and lawful interception of the network. Encryption requirements are also included.

For instance, the license agreement for internet service providers allows for utilization of maximum 40-bit encryption. To use higher encryption, permission needs to be obtained, and a decryption key is given to the Telecom Authority.

All that WhatsApp users have to get full encryption is to get the latest version of the app. The fresh security features are also available on WhatsApp’s BlackBerry and Windows Phone apps. The app will dispatch users a notification when their conversations in the app are completely encrypted. WhatsApp has been collaborating with Open Whisper Systems an organization that has expertise in encrypting messaging platforms for the past 12 months.

End-to-end encryption has its disadvantages. The high, unbreakable level of security and privacy is advantageous to users and disadvantageous to governments. It is likely to be the choice for illegal activities. It is debatable whether an individual’s privacy is more important than public interest. Balance is required with user privacy retained and permission was given for interception for lawful causes.