This phrase has often appeared on the top of our Whatsapp conversation, whenever we open up a new chat. This seems to be a wonderment, as many would assume it would be an alert, as it is stated before we can start getting into our conversation. 

Let not fret as these alerts are only security assurance from Whatsapp. Security of what exactly?

End-to-end encryption assures the security of your conversation. Your engagement with the person you’re messaging is assured and protected as it can only be viewed by the two engaging persons, you and your receiver. 

It is literally “end-to-end” and no one can sneak into your conversation, not even the service provider of the messenger. Your messages, photos, documents, voice messages will only be made visible and available between the two of you. 

Has it always been this way the whole time? Aside from WhatsApp, our conversations from other platforms can be seen by others?

Potentially, yes. This is where we can understand that not all virtual messaging tools serve us invisibility and security. Here are some of the examples to depict the level of encryption for social media / messaging platform :

From the above diagram, it is shown that most social media platforms are not encrypted. This is because of their public-for-view nature. All social media platforms have to ensure that their platforms are being used by the public in an ethical manner. These platforms play a responsible part in shaping our society virtually and consequently, our reality.

Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok, Facebook and other public social platforms monitor our action through their moderators. These moderators are responsible to look after space with a social guideline, ensuring a healthy environment and safe content consumption for its users. Our conversations and contents in the social media sites are visible for them to keep an eye on our actions. Thus, our messages and conversations are not encrypted in this case.

How about optional end-to-end encryption?

These social platforms are not encrypted by default but it offers the encryption feature. Telegram introduces the “Secret Chat” feature which allows a private chat between two recipients. However, for normal chats, it is believed that Telegram still has access to our day-to-day conversation.

From these three levels, this is how you can determine the level of privacy a service provider or social outlet can assure you. Now you know what end-to-end encryption means!

At Condition Zebra, we believe in data privacy, information protection and good internal and external security. As ethical hackers, we believe everyone has the right to privacy. We perform penetration testing and conduct security training for IT professionals across Asia.

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Source: Vox, Whatsapp FAQ