In a new update on the site, WhatsApp confirmed that, as of today, the “supports more than two billion users around the world. In other words, more than a quarter of the world’s population use the chat app.
“Mothers and fathers can reach their loved ones no matter where they are. Brothers and sisters can share moments that matter. Coworkers can collaborate, and businesses can grow by easily connecting with their customers.”
Chat apps and privacy
Chat apps surely have evolved over the years, since the days of Mxit, M33 and Vodacom’s SMS-based T2 chat service. We don’t even want to think of a time before the existence of IM. Private conversations that once were only possible face-to-face can now take place across great distances through instant chats and video calling.
However, with the rise of IM, WhatsApp and the like, new security issues arise every day. WhatsApp used this latest milestone to reconfirm its commitment to security and privacy.
“We know that the more we connect, the more we have to protect. As we conduct more of our lives online, protecting our conversations is more important than ever”.
According to WhatsApp, every private message sent using the service is secured with end-to-end encryption by default to minimise the risk, unlike Facebook’s other chat apps.
What is WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption?
The WhatsApp team explains that strong encryption “acts like an unbreakable digital lock that keeps the information you send over WhatsApp secure, helping protect you from hackers and criminals”.
In basic terms, that means that messages are only kept on your device and can’t be intercepted by anyone else from the moment its sent, to the moment you receive it. According to WhatsApp:
“[No] one in between can read your messages or listen to your calls, not even us [WhatsApp]. Your private conversations stay between you.”
WhatsApp realises that “strong encryption is a necessity in modern life” and promises that it won’t “compromise on security because that would make people less safe”.
In addition, WhatsApp claims that it works “top security experts and employs industry leading technology to stop misuse as well as provide controls and ways to report issues — without sacrificing privacy.
WhatsApp has used end-to-end encryption since 2016 but the feature has not been without criticism. In 2017, Amber Rudd, former US home secretary, said the feature gave “terrorists a place to hide”.
“WhatsApp started with the goal of creating a service that is simple, reliable, and private for people to use. Today we remain as committed as when we started, to help connect the world privately and to protect the personal communication of two billion users all over the world”.