Multiple major technology companies including Facebook, Google, and Snapchat are actively working on increasing encryption of user data, the Guardian reports. The news will be sure to infuriate law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, which are currently in a very public battle with Apple over the role of encryption in its products.
Sources have told the Guardian that over the next several weeks Facebook-owned WhatsApp will be expanding its existing encryption that is already available for text messages to its secure voice calling features, so every call a person makes with WhatsApp is encrypted. WhatsApp also plans to add encryption to group messages as well, sources tell the Guardian. The company will reportedly make a public announcement about the enhanced encryption in the coming weeks. Sources say Facebook is also considering strengthening the security of its own branded messaging services as well.
The Guardian notes that privacy is something that is close to WhatsApp founder Jan Koum’s heart, as he grew up in Soviet-era Ukraine. When Tim Cook published his open letter about his opposition to the FBI’s demand, Koum was one of the first tech leaders to publicly support him, writing that "Our freedom and our liberty are at stake" on his public Facebook page.
Sources have also told the Guardian that Snapchat is working on a secure messaging system, yet no specific details of that system could be obtained. As for Google’s encryption enhancements, the Guardian says the Internet giant has "shown in renewed interest in the idea" of the company’s End to End project. End to End was first announced in 2014 and provided for an easier way for users to send encrypted emails to each other.
Though work on the project has continued at a slow pace the last several years, the Guardian's sources now say interest in End to End is again at the forefront and some Google employees are discussing whether End to End’s encryption technologies can be applied to the company’s other products.
Sources told the Guardian one of the reasons for End to End’s slow progression is because Google has difficulties Apple doesn’t. "There are lots of difficulties at Google that aren’t same at Apple," the source said. "The business models are just different." The company currently sells targeted ads based on the contents of Gmails, something that would prove more difficult if all messages were encrypted. Sources say work on End to End is ongoing.
It’s not just tech companies that currently aren’t publicly fighting with the FBI that are beefing up their encryption technologies, either. Despite its fight with the FBI, Apple itself isn’t slowing down on making its services more secure. The Guardian notes that the company has recently hired the developer of secure messaging app Signal to work as an intern on the iOS security team.