Facebook has confirmed that all WhatsApp messages are end-to-end encrypted, and that a report The nonprofit investigative journalism organization ProPublica is based on an apparent misunderstanding.
The report said moderators across the company were able to check users’ messages, photos and videos. However, this is possible when reporting a message.
When the recipient of the message uses the WhatsApp reporting feature, the message is automatically forwarded to Facebook. This is technically no different from manually forwarding the message.
At this point, the message is decrypted. Submitting a report creates a new end-to-end encrypted message that is sent to the company, which then keeps the key as it is the intended recipient of the message.
ProPublica reports this as if the message’s privacy has been breached.
The report says: The confirmation that appears automatically across the screen before users send messages shows that no one outside this chat, not even WhatsApp, can read or listen to it.
The ProPublica report said: These assertions are not true. WhatsApp has more than 1,000 workers who screen millions of pieces of users’ content. These workers use special software across Facebook to filter out private message streams, photos and videos that WhatsApp users have flagged as inappropriate. It is subsequently examined by the company’s artificial intelligence systems. These contractors pass judgment on anything that appears on their screens — claims for everything from fraud or spam to child pornography and potential terrorist planning — usually in less than a minute.
Moreover, the report cites a confidential whistleblower complaint filed last year with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.
The complaint details WhatsApp’s use of third-party contractors, artificial intelligence systems, and account information to screen user messages, photos, and videos.
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Facebook denies undermining privacy of WhatsApp users
There is one point that may not be clear to users. When you report a message, not only the message is forwarded, but the previous four messages in the same chat. This is to provide brokers with the necessary context to properly evaluate them.
There may be some misunderstanding during the investigation, as moderators may review Facebook messages but not WhatsApp. But ProPublica claims that WhatsApp’s director of communications, Karl Woog, has acknowledged that contractor teams review WhatsApp messages to identify and remove the worst offenders.
It’s worth noting that the ProPublica report shows that WhatsApp admins can only access reported messages.
“We build WhatsApp in a way that limits the data we collect while giving us tools to prevent spam, investigate threats, and block those involved in abuse,” a Facebook spokesperson said.
The spokesperson noted that WhatsApp has released new privacy features, including more controls on how people’s messages are hidden or shown only once.
“Based on the feedback we’ve received from users, we’re confident that people understand that when they report to WhatsApp, we’re getting the content they’re sending us.”
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