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Did you get a message from WhatsApp saying that an encryption code has been activated on your platform? As confusing as it may sound, it may be a good thing for us. Although it falls in the grey area of our IT laws, it still seems to be convenient for its users. Confused? Well, here's breaking it down for you.


The seven year old instant messaging app, WhatsApp, has gained a bit of notoriety over the last couple of days with its new encryption option. And, what that probably means is that the messaging app that has so religiously fostered the following that it has right now, might just find itself at the wrong of the law.

Here's what the encryption means. 




WhatsApp recently included 256-bit encryption to its service.

What that means is that the end-to-end encryption on the app allows complete privacy from prying eyes - cyber criminals we mean, for the most part. End-to-end encryption basically is a system of communication where only the two parties involved can see the data. It does not allow any third party access to the data, and this includes telecom providers, Internet providers and the company that runs the messaging service. Which means that even WhatsApp itself can't undo the encryption. This is available with the app's latest updated version and is already in play. Now, this doesn't stop people who grab your phone and flip through the messages, but you get the idea.

The encryption can be turned on for specific contacts.


All you need to do is meet up with the friends on your contact list whose chats you would like the encryption to be set on, and scan the assigned QR-code or 60 digit number key. This effectively renders your chats into completely privacy over the Internet, and no amount of hacking seems to be able to undo it.

The problem lies with India's telecommunications laws.


Which are ancient enough to render an encryption like this illegal. According to the Department of Telecommunications, an encryption higher than 40-bit would require special permits and licenses to operate with.

But, there might be a ray of hope.

Because, technically these laws apply to Internet Service Providers, which WhatsApp technically doesn't fall into. It is not clear if the encryption rules formulated by DoT apply to a company and application like WhatsApp.

Whatever the case, it seems that the government may be reforming some of its regulations to include a provision for this app specifically. Hopefully, it is in our favour.

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Mithilesh Joshi