So, there’s a bit of grumbling about WhatsApp not providing a ‘back door’ to its systems so that encrypted messages sent via WhatsApp could be scrutinised by security agencies. And today Sir Tim Berners-Lee joined the debate by saying that attempts to undermine encryption would be a ‘bad idea’. So it would.
The problem where WhatsApp is concerned is that its end-to-end security process, the encryption algorithms it uses and the regeneration of encryption and decryption keys for each message imply that it is very secure indeed. This is its major selling point at a time when many ‘innocent’ individuals are rightly concerned about the vulnerability of their personal data and their privacy. The messages sent via WhatsApp are never stored on their servers so it would seem to follow that they can’t hand it over or provide the decryption key specific to a particular user/message. What it could provide, if a Court of Law so ordered them to do so, would be the meta-data associated with particular messages (i.e. the phone numbers involved and the time and date the message transactions occurred). One would think that this would be enough for genuinely concerned intelligence agencies to track down and investigate known associates of a particular individual.