WhatsApp working to encrypt chat backups1 min read . Updated: 18 Jul 2021, 01:54 PM IST
- This comes amidst tensions with the government over traceability of chats under the new IT rules
Amid tension around the future of end-to-end encryption (E2EE) on messaging apps, Facebook-owned WhatsApp is working to add the feature to encrypt chat backups. The platform allows users to keep backups of their chats on Google Drive or Apple’s iCloud, something that security experts have often pointed to as a glaring flaw in keeping user chats private. According to WABetaInfo, a blog that tracks WhatsApp’s development cycle, the beta update for Android — version 184.108.40.206 — has enabled the feature.
According to the report, users will have to opt to have their chat backups encrypted. The feature will require users to set up a password to encrypt chats. They can also choose to set up a 64-character encryption key instead of the password. However, the platform warns that this information cannot be recovered and losing it would mean the user loses access to their chat backup. The platform will ask for this password or key whenever a user chooses to recover a backup.
The messaging giant is currently fighting a case against the government over traceability requirements imposed through the country’s new IT Rules. The rules require platforms like WhatsApp to trace the first originator of a message, which is impossible while E2EE is in place, according to platforms like WhatsApp. The Indian government, and many others, has pushed for such platforms to build backdoors into their code, which allow law enforcement agencies access to users’ texts when required.
The platforms and many security experts, however, argue that building such backdoors would break E2EE altogether. Accessing chat backups, by issuing the right warrants, has often been seen as a workaround for law enforcement agencies to gain access when required. Encrypting these may make that difficult too.
Since WhatsApp chat is backed up on Google Drive or iCloud, government agencies could issue notices to those companies to provide access to such information. However, if the information is encrypted in the first place, Google and Apple won’t be able to comply, even if they are provided ample reasons to give access to law enforcement agencies.
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