WhatsApp privacy and security warning

Tesla and X CEO Elon Musk has raised concerns about WhatsApp’s security and privacy, saying the company exports users’ data every night.

WhatsApp promotes itself as a highly secure messaging application with end-to-end encryption of all chats.

“End-to-end encryption ensures only you and the person you’re communicating with can read or listen to what is sent, and nobody in between, not even WhatsApp,” it said.

“Your messages are secured with a lock, and only the recipient and you have the special key needed to unlock and read them.”

The company added that business messaging is equally private and secure with end-to-end encryption.

“Every WhatsApp message is protected by the same Signal encryption protocol that secures messages before they leave your device,” it said.

“When you message a WhatsApp business account, your message is delivered securely to the destination chosen by the business.”

WhatsApp said it believes messaging and calling should always be as private and secure as having face-to-face conversations.

“No one can search for your phone number or read your personal messages,” it said.

“We’ll never stop building new features to give you extra layers of privacy, and more control over your messages.”

Musk dismissed WhatsApp’s security claims, saying, “WhatsApp exports your user data every night. Some people still think it is secure”.

He has previously accused WhatsApp owner Meta of being disingenuous about user privacy and security.

Earlier this month, Musk said, “Meta can’t be trusted” in response to a fine by Turkey’s competition board over its data-sharing practices.

Musk’s attack on Meta and WhatsApp comes amidst increased scrutiny of Meta’s risks related to child safety.

Previous WhatsApp privacy concerns

In September 2021, the investigative journalism organisation ProPublica conducted an extensive investigation into WhatsApp’s privacy.

It alleged that WhatsApp and Meta used outside contractors and artificial intelligence systems to examine user communication.

It added that Meta collaborated with law enforcement. However, it would not say how much data it collects from WhatsApp users and what it does with it.

“WhatsApp shares metadata, unencrypted records that can reveal a lot about a user’s activity, with law enforcement agencies such as the Department of Justice,” it reported.

It added that WhatsApp user data helped prosecutors build a high-profile case against a Treasury Department employee.

“WhatsApp is caught between users who expect privacy and law enforcement entities that effectively demand the opposite,” it said.

The report added that WhatsApp employs around a thousand contractors to review content reported by users.

When a message is reported, it, along with the four preceding messages, is decrypted and sent to the content review team.

If a message is deemed inappropriate, a user can be placed on a watch list or ban them. The process is reportedly prone to misunderstandings.

ProPublica further reported that WhatsApp makes use of AI systems to scan unencrypted data collected from users.

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WhatsApp privacy and security warning