For months there was a dispute over new usage rules for WhatsApp, which should be accepted by all users. Now the world’s most popular messenger service is going on the offensive, wanting to advertise its encryption and new privacy protection functions with an advertising campaign.
On the one hand, WhatsApp emphasizes in the promotion that all chats are fully encrypted. In addition, it should soon be possible to send messages that can only be viewed once by the recipient. That could be useful, for example, if you have to send family members a password, said WhatsApp boss Will Cathcart.
You will also be able to set that chats disappear on their own after a certain period of time. “Overall, people don’t want their messages to last forever,” stressed Cathcart. “When we talk, we don’t have a recording device with us. So it’s strange that digital chat platforms save them forever. “
WhatsApp, which belongs to the Facebook group, will start its data protection advertising campaign on Monday in Germany and the UK. The two countries are among the most important markets for the chat app. Short promotional videos emphasize that content sent on WhatsApp is basically only visible in clear text to the users involved thanks to the so-called end-to-end encryption.
WhatsApp has more than two billion users worldwide. However, in the past few months after the announcement of new usage rules, the service had to contend with criticism and a churn of users.
The trigger was the assessment that with the update, which came into force in mid-May, more data should be shared with the parent company Facebook. WhatsApp rejected this as a misunderstanding and repeatedly emphasized that the end-to-end encryption, with which the service itself does not have access to content, will not be weakened.
“Have to communicate clearly”
WhatsApp boss Cathcart admitted errors in the announcement of the new rules. “We have to clearly communicate what we are doing and why.” WhatsApp missed this. “We only became clearer when we saw the confusion. It’s our responsibility, ”said Cathcart.
WhatsApp had already planned an advertising campaign for end-to-end encryption. But after the controversy of the past few months, WhatsApp has even more reasons to talk about it.
In the meantime, the vast majority of users who have already been asked to agree to the new rules have accepted them, said Cathcart. He did not give exact numbers. Originally, users who do not agree to the new rules should lose access to basic functions over time. In the meantime, they no longer face any consequences.
Criticism of governments
Cathcart criticized the fact that some governments tried to weaken the encryption in chat services. “I hope that, over time, governments will see that the most important role they can play is to make things safer” – for example, by setting standards for businesses.
WhatsApp argues with governments that end-to-end encryption helps protect the security of citizens. Facebook is still sticking to the plan to bring full encryption to its second chat service Messenger as the next step, said Cathcart.
Attempts by governments and authorities are underway in several countries to bypass full encryption in chat services such as WhatsApp. In Germany, too, there is a draft law with which the protection of the constitution is supposed to enable source telecommunications monitoring in encrypted chat services.
With classic SMS messages, it has long been the case that telecommunications providers have to allow authorities to monitor them. This does not yet apply to the encrypted chat services. Criticize security authorities, as this would mean that they would not have access to communications from criminals or extremists.
Recently, however, international police authorities struck a big blow against organized crime with the help of a chat app, of all things. The investigators had succeeded in establishing their alleged secured app as a communication channel in criminal circles.