WhatsApp’s promise of private messages with end-to-end encryption appears to have been false, an investigation revealed.
When Facebook purchased the popular messaging app for $19 billion in 2014, both companies assured users that their data could not be accessed by either company.
But Facebook not only hired 1,000 workers to sift through millions of messages on WhatsApp, which has two billion users around the world, but it also shared some of those messages with law enforcement and the U.S. Department of Justice to help put people in prison, ProPublica claims.
In the report, ProPublica found that Facebook had hired contractors in Austin, Texas, Dublin, Ireland and Singapore to look at millions of pieces of users’ content.
‘These hourly workers use special Facebook software to sift through streams of private messages, images and videos that have been reported by WhatsApp users as improper and then screened by the company’s artificial intelligence systems,’ the report detailed.
‘These contractors pass judgment on whatever flashes on their screen — claims of everything from fraud or spam to child porn and potential terrorist plotting — typically in less than a minute.’
Will Cathcart, Head of WhatsApp, said the news was a non-issue.
‘I think we absolutely can have security and safety for people through end-to-end encryption and work with law enforcement to solve crimes,’ Cathcart said.
WhatsApp had helped prosecutors build a high profile cases against Natalie Edwards, a U.S. Treasury Department employee, who allegedly leaked confidential documents to BuzzFeed on how dirty money flows through U.S. banks, according to ProPublica.