After facing scrutiny for its handling and distribution of user data earlier this year, WhatsApp just announced the development of new security measures that will allow for in-app conversations to be encrypted when they are backed up in the cloud.

Increased user privacy

Thanks to recent developments, WhatsApp user conversations are less likely to be seen by unwelcome eyes, such as local government or law enforcement agencies. According to a statement issued by Mark Zuckerberg on September 10,

“WhatsApp is the first global messaging service at this scale to offer end-to-end encrypted messaging and backups, and getting there was a really hard technical challenge that required an entirely new framework for key storage and cloud storage across operating systems,”

As WhatsApp releases its new features, users can opt-in to creating a 64-digit encryption key which will allow them to “lock” the cloud-copies that are created of their conversations. According to TechCrunch,

“Users can [then] store the encryption key offline or in a password manager of their choice, or they can create a password that backs up their encryption key in a cloud-based ‘backup key vault’ that WhatsApp has developed. The cloud-stored encryption key can’t be used without the user’s password, which isn’t known by WhatsApp.”

Protecting the present – and the past

Not only will this new feature allow users to better protect any new messages that they send, but it will also help secure previous conversations. According to a WhatsApp spokesperson, after users opt to encrypt their messages stored in the cloud, any unencrypted copies that were previously saved will be deleted automatically. This development will supposedly make WhatsApp one of the most secure messaging apps on the market. According Uzma Barlaskar, product lead for privacy at WhatsApp:

“Making backups fully encrypted is really hard and it’s particularly hard to make it reliable and simple enough for people to use. No other messaging service at this scale has done this and provided this level of security for people’s messages.”