Thu, Nov 20, 2014 - Page 15 News List

WhatsApp rolls out Open Whisper text encryption protocol


A WhatsApp logo is pictured on Feb. 20.

Photo: AFP

An online privacy tool endorsed by former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor and whistle-blower Edward Snowden is being used to protect WhatsApp messages from snooping by encrypting them.

Open Whisper Systems on Tuesday announced a partnership with Facebook-owned WhatsApp to use the TextSecure protocol to scramble messages in transit.

“WhatsApp deserves enormous praise for devoting considerable time and effort to this project,” Open Whisper Systems said in a blog post. “Even though we are still at the beginning of the rollout, we believe this already represents the largest deployment of end-to-end encrypted communication in history.”

WhatsApp confirmed the announcement, but declined to comment further.

TextSecure encryption enabled automatically as a default setting is already built into most recent version of WhatsApp for mobile devices powered by Google-backed Android software, with billions of messages being exchanged daily, Open Whisper said.

Open Whisper is an open-source project supported by donations and grants.

While taking part in a South By Southwest conference earlier this year, Snowden praised encryption tools offered by Open Whisper.

Snowden connected to the gathering remotely from Russia, where he took refuge after leaking information about widespread online surveillance by the NSA.

Facebook last month completed its purchase of WhatsApp, with the mostly stock deal tallying nearly US$22 billion.

On Tuesday, Facebook launched a mobile app for its Groups feature that lets users create and interact with communities on the site.

More than 700 million of Facebook’s 1.35 billion members use Groups, the company said.

The app is meant to make accessing Groups easier on a mobile device, the company said.

Additional reporting by AP

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