ProPublica recently published an explosive report which claimed that Facebook undermines WhatsApp’s privacy protections. Despite assuring WhatsApp users of E2E encryption, Facebook moderators can access “users messages, images and videos”. The report by ProPublica raised eyebrows globally and became headlines soon after. However, it turns out the report by ProPublica was factually incorrect and they themselves have now admitted their “story caused unintended confusion” and that they have “altered the language in the story.”
While there’s no denying that Facebook moderators do have the capability to examine messages sent on WhatsApp, there’s one crucial piece of information that the report failed to clarify. Only those messages which get reported by users can be examined by moderators– who are essentially Facebook’s contract workers. These moderators do not have access to your chats.
According to a report by 9to5 Mac, Facebook moderators can only get to see and examine “users messages, images and videos” only when either the sender or receiver hits the report button to report the message to WhatsApp. “When a message recipient uses WhatsApp’s Report feature, the message is effectively auto-forwarded to Facebook,” as per the report by 9to5 Mac. It also added that “filing a report creates a new end-to-end encrypted message to Facebook, which then holds the key as it is the intended message recipient.”
Acknowledging this, ProPublica said, “A previous version of this story caused unintended confusion about the extent to which WhatsApp examines its users’ messages and whether it breaks the encryption that keeps the exchanges secret. We’ve altered language in the story to make clear that the company examines only messages from threads that have been reported by users as possibly abusive. It does not break end-to-end encryption.”
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