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WhatsApp Encrypted Messages Are Not Private For Facebook Research Claims


The accusation weighs heavily, but at a second glance, everything seems to be right. US media accuse Facebook of deceiving WhatsApp users by promising that nobody can read encrypted messages. Facebook quotes the terms of use.

A report by the US magazine ProPublica caused a stir today, as it says that Facebook as the operator, despite advertising promises to the contrary, is able to read messages from WhatsApp users despite the end-to-end encryption used when they were sent. WhatsApp actually claims in its app when sending encrypted messages that “no one outside of this chat, not even WhatsApp, can read or listen to these messages”.

Employees check reported messages and read them

But this is not entirely true: According to research by ProPublica, WhatsApp has thousands of temporary workers at several locations in the USA, Singapore, and Europe who check millions of messages and other content when it is reported by users. The messages are first checked by AI software before they are then presented to the human reviewers for review.

Facebook has meanwhile provided clarification to its colleagues at 9to5Mac reacts and explains that you can actually see certain messages that have been sent in encrypted form. According to the company, this only affects cases in which a user has reported certain messages. A check is then carried out to determine whether the respective messages violate WhatsApp’s usage guidelines.

However, this is also clearly regulated in the terms of use, according to Facebook with reference to the WhatsApp terms and conditions, which every user must agree to. If a WhatsApp user uses the reporting function for a certain message, this is automatically forwarded to Facebook’s reviewer. Basically, this works like the forwarding of a message from a chat to third parties such as friends or other conversation partners.

If you click the button for reporting a message, a new end-to-end encrypted message is sent to the WhatsApp reviewers, according to Facebook in its statement. This then contains the same content as the original, with the four previous messages also being transmitted in the same way. This should give the auditors the context they need to make a deletion decision if necessary. Facebook and WhatsApp can only see messages when users report them.