WhatsApp Mods Can Read Your Encrypted Texts Under Special Circumstances

Your WhatsApp conversations may be less private than you think.

While the Facebook-owned company states its messages are encrypted with the same encryption protocol as Signal, non-profit company ProPublica says WhatsApp has some practices that make it less secure.

If a user reports private messages, images and videos as spam or abusive in nature, the company will use artificial intelligence (AI) systems to scan that content. In addition, ProPublica claims that WhatsApp “regularly shares personal information with prosecutors.”

According to the non-profit, Facebook is not entirely honest with what information it collects from WhatsApp, and how much of the metadata collected gets shared with law enforcement. While ProPublica’s stance doesn’t dispute the integrity of end-to-end encryption of the messages, it does imply that the messaging app has created a faulty system.

By encouraging users to report content for moderation, and therefor undoing the expectation of privacy, the company may be shooting itself in the foot, so to speak. Users may not entirely understand or expect that their “encrypted messages” could potentially be read by a moderation team. This calls into question the branding of a fully private, secure messaging app that the company has put forth.

WhatsApp released a statement to The Register, saying that they “disagree with the notion that accepting reports a user chooses to send [them] is incompatible with end-to-end encryption.” The report from ProPublica has not been well received by some security professionals, who agree that reporting abuse and E2EE are not mutually exclusive.

For those who use WhatsApp regularly, it might be worth looking into the company’s privacy policy to see what that entails. Sometimes companies who market themselves as being pro-privacy aren’t as readily able to clear up misunderstandings that end-users have. It’s always better to be informed when your personal information is involved.

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