Google, Facebook, Snapchat, and WhatsApp Reportedly Eye Expanded Encryption
Apple may soon have reinforcements in its battle against the FBI.
A number of top tech companies are exploring the addition of boosted security measures in their messaging applications, the Guardian reports, citing unnamed sources. Among them are Google (GOOG), Facebook (FB), Snapchat, and WhatsApp.
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Each of these firms has already filed a “friend of the court” brief in support of Apple (AAPL), amid the company’s standoff with federal law enforcement over accessing data stored on an iPhone used by a terrorist. The expansion of encryption within their products could add muscle to their words.
According to the report, interest in encryption is percolating at Google. “Some Google employees are discussing whether the technology behind End to End can be applied to other products, though no final determinations have been made,” the Guardian’s Danny Yadron reports.
Google originally unveiled that it was working on an end-to-end email encryption project in collaboration with Yahoo (YHOO) in 2014. The search giant has apparently run into obstacles implementing it though, given that part of the company’s business model involves scanning the content of users’ email messages for advertising purposes.
Meanwhile, Facebook and Snapchat are also reportedly working on building out enhanced security features for their messaging products, according to the Guardian, which remained vague on the details. The companies did not immediately reply to Fortune’s request for comment.
But it’s Facebook-owned WhatsApp that is generating the most buzz, behind Apple, of course. The internationally-used messaging app apparently has plans to extend its end-to-end encryption to voice calls and group chats “within weeks,” according to the Guardian’s report, which cites two anonymous sources. The service first began securing one-on-one conversions between Android and Apple iOS users with the technology in 2014.
A company spokesperson declined to comment on or confirm the report to Fortune.
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In addition, government officials have reportedly been scrutinizing WhatsApp as a possible target for a wiretapping lawsuit, a case that could end up being very similar to Apple’s current entanglement with the FBI. Federal officials would like to force WhatsApp to decrypt communications between suspects in the course of investigations—a capability that end-to-end encryption makes impossible. Last month Brazilian police jailed a Facebook executive for his inability to supply certain information on the app’s users, as part of a drug investigation.
Meanwhile, Apple is reportedly developing even stronger security measures in upcoming models of its devices. The company has offered full-disk encryption on its devices, as well as end-to-end encryption on iMessage and FaceTime, since 2014.
Lately smaller rivals with private chat apps such as Signal, Wickr, Wire, and Telegram, have been getting a boost in attention for offering security features like end to end encryption. Silicon Valley stalwarts could miss out on if they don’t keep up.