Whatsapp starts encrypting messages on Android

Whatsapp is rolling out end-to-end encryption to Android users as the messaging service looks to beef up its privacy and security credentials.

The Facebook subsidiary has partnered with Open Whisper System and is using the TextSecure' protocol. Whatsapp claims it will not be able to decrypt any messages even if it is asked to do so by the authorities.

Android users are the first to benefit with private messages between contacts already encrypted with the latest update.

This will be followed by encryption for group chats and media messages.

There are plans to roll out support for other platforms including iOS, BlackBerry and Windows Phone, but no timeframes have yet been specified.

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

"WhatsApp runs on an incredible number of mobile platforms, so full deployment will be an incremental process as we add TextSecure protocol support into each WhatsApp client platform."

Whilst the move to encrypt data will be welcomed, it has also raised eyebrows as Whatsapp is owned by Facebook, a company that profits by collecting user data and serving them adverts.

User comments on the Open Whisper Systems blog have also greeted the announcement with caution, stating that there is always a risk of backdoors being built in. They also warned that the encryption is unlikely to affect the collection of metadata such as the time a message was sent or who the recipient of message was.

Khidr Suleman is the Technical Editor at IT Pro, a role he has fulfilled since March 2012. He is responsible for the reviews section on the site  - so get in touch if you have a product you think might be of interest to the business world. He also covers the hardware and operating systems beats. Prior to joining IT Pro, Khidr worked as a reporter at Incisive Media. He studied law at the University of Reading and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism and Online Writing at PMA Training.