Daily Management Review

Encryption of User Data Planned to be Enhanced by Facebook, Google and WhatsApp


Encryption of User Data Planned to be Enhanced by Facebook, Google and WhatsApp
As Apple fights the US government over encryption, Silicon Valley’s leading companies – including Facebook, Google and Snapchat, are working on their own increased privacy technology, reports Reuters.
Just as much as Apple’s more secure iPhones, which are currently at the center of the San Bernardino shooting investigation, the authorities could be antagonized by the projects. These projects are also indicative of the industry support for Apple in the case and want to back up their public support with concrete action.
In addition to its existing privacy features, Facebook intends to encrypt the voice calls for its messaging service WhatsApp within weeks. There are more than one billion users of this service worldwide. Facebook is also considering beefing up security of its own Messenger tool.
While Google is exploring extra uses for the technology behind a long-in-the-works encrypted email project, Snapchat, the popular ephemeral messaging service, is also working on a secure messaging system, reported The Guardian.
The fact that highly encrypted products can be hard to use or the companies prioritized more consumer-friendly projects were seen as the reason behind encrypted messaging products developed at the major technology firms, including Twitter never see them being used. Technology executives view strong privacy tools as a business advantage – not just a marketing pitch is how the engineers at these technology firms are viewing the increased emphasis on encryption.
However many of these projects were conceived and started well before Apple entered a court battle with the Department of Justice over whether it should help authorities hack into a suspected terrorist’s iPhone. 
Making it increasingly difficult for authorities to tap the service’s messages, strong encryption for its messages is being rolled out by WhatsApp since 2014. For founder Jan Koum, who was born in Soviet-era Ukraine, the issue is personal. Koum posted on his Facebook account: “Our freedom and our liberty are at stake”, when Apple CEO Tim Cook announced in February that his company would fight the government in court.
As the app is in open confrontation with governments, his efforts to go further still are striking. After WhatsApp told investigators it lacked the technical ability to provide the messages of drug traffickers, Brazil authorities arrested a Facebook executive in March. Facebook called the arrest “extreme and disproportionate”.
WhatsApp already offers Android and iPhone users encrypted messaging. The Guardian reported quoting two people familiar with the matter as saying that the company plans to offer users encrypted voice calls and encrypted group messages in the coming weeks. After that the free to download application would be very difficult for authorities to tap.
Users should be able to expect that security is a given, not a bonus feature, Koum, its founder, has said and hence the company hasn’t pushed the security functions of the service as a selling point to users.
While Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, recently joined a Defense Department advisory group on how tech can aid in future battles, Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, has talked publicly about how tech companies can help the west combat Isis online.
While maintaining the ability to hand over metadata, which reveals who is speaking to whom, how often and when, tech companies could be encouraged for the use of encryption for the content of messages, says some technology executives could be one middle path.