WhatsApp May Soon Introduce Password-Protected Encrypted iCloud Backups
March 22, 2021
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by Youpal News Service

Facebook-owned messaging service WhatsApp is working on a feature that will allow its users to secure chat backups in iCloud using password-protected encryption.

According to WABetaInfo, the chat data base and media will be encrypted using a password that only the user would know. At present, WhatsApp allows iPhone users back up their chat data on iCloud, but the algorithm is reversible and these data and other media files are not end-to-end encrypted on iCloud. To be noted, Apple is the custodian of user data when it is saved on its cloud platform and the company has shared user data with authorities in the past when lawfully requested.

The new feature addresses this concern as it allows users to encrypt and password-protect their chat data base prior to uploading to iCloud. This password is private, known only to the user who sets it up, and it won’t be uploaded on its servers to ensure that the data base will not be subject to unauthorised access.

“To prevent unauthorised access to your iCloud Drive backup, you can set a password that will be used to encrypt future backups. This password will be required when you restore from the backup,” reveals the screenshots posted by WABetaInfo showcasing how WhatsApp describes the password-protection feature.

The screenshots also included a message that said WhatsApp will not be able to help users recover forgotten passwords.

Local Android backups will be compatible with this feature, WABetaInfo said.

It appears that the company is now rushing the release of this feature, which has been in the works for over a year now, after receiving widespread criticism over its recently released privacy policy update. The privacy policy update, announced in January, necessitated users to accept sharing of certain chat metadata with Facebook companies which will be used to provide, improve, customise, support and market its services.

It was released in an accept-or-leave manner, which led to serious data privacy concerns across the globe. Consequently, users have been migrating to rival encrypted messaging services like Telegram and Signal.

As the opposition to the update grew, the company deferred the implementation to May 15, 2021 and issued an explanation on its FAQ page. “The information we share with the other Facebook Companies includes your account registration information (such as your phone number), transaction data, service-related information, information on how you interact with others (including businesses) when using our services, mobile device information, your IP address, and may include other information identified in the Privacy Policy section entitled ‘Information We Collect’ or obtained upon notice to you or based on your consent.” 

WhatsApp’s head Will Cathcart then issued further explanation in a Twitter thread saying the policy update was related to optional business features on WhatsApp. He assured that private messages and calls on the platform were end-to-end encrypted and could not be accessed by WhatsApp or Facebook.

“It’s important for us to be clear this update describes business communication and does not change WhatsApp’s data sharing practices with Facebook. It does not impact how people communicate privately with friends or family wherever they are in the world,” he wrote on the micro-blogging website.

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