WhatsApp now has over 2 billion users worldwide, CEO says encryption is important

HIGHLIGHTS

  • WhatsApp now has more than 2 billion users worldwide.
  • The chat app was launched in 2009 and acquired by Facebook in 2014.
  • WhatsApp has said it will work towards strengthening security on the platform.

The world’s biggest chat app has become even bigger. WhatsApp on Wednesday announced that it has amassed over 2 billion users across the world, up from 1.5 billion in 2018. While announcing its new user base, WhatsApp also laid emphasis on what it does to ensure strong encryption for the app’s ecosystem and that it will work towards tightening the security. It is a significant surge for the Facebook-owned chat app that has faced criticism over its encryption policy from the lawmakers globally.

WhatsApp CEO Will Cathart told The Wall Street Journal that the company will not change its encryption policy, even it means flouting directions of the regulatory bodies of select countries demanding decryption of chat messages. But he also said that WhatsApp will provide metadata of the chats to the lawmakers for investigative purposes. In the backdrop, multiple fiascos on user privacy and encryption have marred the reputation of Facebook, the parent company of WhatsApp, making it hard for it to convince the lawmakers.

Facebook’s user base, on the other hand, has 2.5 billion users globally, which is not far from WhatsApp’s current global footprint. In fact, the instant messaging application has planned to leverage the user base to serve advertisements in its bid to monetise the service. The idea to earn revenue from WhatsApp goes against what the co-founder Brian Acton and Jan Koum had propositioned initially.

The end-to-end encryption, which has been at the helm of the functioning of WhatsApp, has come under the scanner from the lawmakers in some countries. The governments have urged Facebook’s WhatsApp to develop a tool that will circumvent the encryption wall on the app, citing reasons such as those helpful in tracking people who spread fake news and incite violence. But WhatsApp has so far not complied with the demands of the governments.

Separately, Facebook has announced that it will integrate its four platforms – the Facebook marquee app, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram. Previously, features such as Stories have been introduced to all the apps. Adding to this motive, Cathart told WSJ that the facility to extract metadata will be interoperable with other messaging apps. However, this integration will be restricted as per the messaging service.

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Author: Sham