The tale of an 'encrypted' WhatsApp message

Messages you send to this chat and calls are now secured with end-to-end encryption, which means WhatsApp and third parties can’t read or listen to them.
— WhatsApp

“On February 19, 2014, months after a venture capital financing round at a $1.5 billion valuation, Facebook announced it was acquiring WhatsApp for US $19 billion, its largest acquisition to date. At the time, the acquisition was the largest purchase of a venture-backed company in history.” -

And our right to privacy has been quite questionable since then.

Of late, one of my colleagues received a promotional message from a random astrologer who managed to have his number through some means. My colleague read the message, or to put it down in the language comprehensible in the world of WhatsApp; the message received blue ticks. What happened next is interesting. My colleague saw advertisements related to astrology on the right side of his Facebook News Feed when he was routinely checking his Facebook account later on that same day. A keen enthusiast in the field of Marketing and Analytics himself, he tried to delve deep into the reason why he was suddenly being show advertisements related to astrology. He checked all his likes and interests on Facebook - he had never expressed an interest in topics or pages related to Astrology. Also, the fact that the advertisements had started appearing on his News Feed after he read the message from the random astrologer on WhatsApp calls for all of us to take a moment out of our busy lives and think - Do we have any privacy at all?

Privacy and Security is our DNA” is what WhatsApp mentions in the Security section of the app. “Some of your most personal moments are shared with WhatsApp, which is why we built end-to-end encryption with the latest versions of our app. When end-to-end encrypted, your messages, photos, videos, voice messages, documents, and calls are secured from falling into the wrong hands.” - WhatsApp’s defence as mentioned in its Security section.


In August 2016, WhatsApp updated it’s terms and conditions and also its privacy policy that empowered it to share all its data with Facebook for better Ad targeting on the latter and that by opting for end-to-end encryption, we could save our messages, media and pictures from getting public. A popup message came up, wherein if we selected “Don’t share”, we were opting out of allowing WhatsApp account information to improve Facebook ads and products experience. My colleague had selected ‘Don’t Share’ at the time of installing this product update.

"EU regulators had expressed deep concerns on WhatsApp merging data with Facebook and as a direct result, the two companies halted the implementation of the new privacy policy (allowing the firms to mingle their data). Moreover, in December 2016, the European Commission threatened to impose a $179 million fine on Facebook for attempting to merge the data after assuring the commission to the contrary in 2014. The EU is also contemplating an ePrivacy Directive to protect its citizens and imposing regulations on internet communications companies similar to traditional telecom companies. As a result, companies that fail to comply with this Directive (or any other EU privacy guidelines) will face fines of up to 4% of their global turnover." -

The Centre and Supreme Court of India have also come forward to address the issue :

“In the WhatsApp case, the Centre told the Supreme Court protection of data integral to a citizen’s personal life is part of his fundamental right to life and dignity." - Reuters

The Court has taken a stand on right to our privacy. The hearing was passed in May 2017.

All we can hope for is that the hearing rightfully protects the privacy of our blue ticks!


This article was wriiten by Megha Malpani, Digital Analytics Consultant at Redwood Algorithms.