Popular instant messaging platform WhatsApp has notified its users that messages and media on its app are not protected by end-to-end encryption` if the data is stored as a backup on Google’s servers. ‘Media and messages you back up aren't protected by WhatsApp end-to-end encryption while on Google Drive,’ WhatsApp said in an update on its site.
The explicit move comes after the Facebook-owned messaging app on August 16 announced to sign a pact with Google to allow users to store messages on the Google Drive without the need of an additional quota. Till now, a WhatsApp user's data can be stored on Google drive, but this was part of the 15 GB free space that a Google account offers.
End-to-end encryption simply means that when a user sends a message it can only be read by the recipient, even WhatsApp can read the message.
While WhatsApp in the past has explained to users that data of the messaging app stored on Google drive is not encrypted, the end-to-end encryption technique has been questioned many times by authorities. The Indian government has asked WhatsApp to curb the circulation of fake messages sent on the app that led to violence in the country or face legal action.
The instant messaging service recently rolled out forward message limit to five chats for its 200 million users in the country.
Last month, the company began testing a limit of 5 chats at once and is now likely to remove the quick forward button next to media messages.
‘The limit has started to appear this week for people in India who are on the current version of WhatsApp,’ the company said in a statement.
In addition, the instant messaging app has also published a new video to educate its users, saying it is expanding its user education campaign on how to spot fake news and hoaxes. Globally, the company allows users to forward messages for up to 20 chats (either individuals or groups).
In July, Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had asked telecom companies for ways to block social media platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook, Telegram and Instagram in case of a threat to national security and public order.
The Indian government has also sent a letter to WhatsApp asking for ‘more effective solutions’ that can bring in ‘accountability and facilitate enforcement of law’ in the wake of rising incidents of rumours on WhatsApp, triggering lynching incidents in the country.
Ministry of electronics and IT (MEITY) has also sent out a strict warning to WhatsApp to immediately stop the spread of ‘irresponsible and explosive messages filled with rumours and provocation’ on its platform.
‘We will use a mix of technology along with new features to identify forwarded messages and work with fact checkers and academia to address the issue,’ WhatsApp said in the reply.