Chat bots for men
In other words, Whats App has no way of complying with a court order demanding access to the content of any message, phone call, photo, or video traveling through its service.
Like Apple, Whats App is, in practice, stonewalling the federal government, but it's doing so on a larger front—one that spans roughly a billion devices."Building secure products actually makes for a safer world, (though) many people in law enforcement may not agree with that," says Acton, who was employee number forty-four at Internet giant Yahoo before co-founding Whats App in 2009 alongside Koum, one of his old Yahoo colleagues.
What makes this move even more striking is that the company did this with such a tiny group of people. And it took a team of only 15 of them to bring encryption to the company's one billion users—a tiny, technologically empowered group of individuals engaging in a new form of asymmetrical resistance to authority, standing up not only to the US government, but all governments. "With the right stewards in place, with the right guidance, we can really effect positive change."But of course, positive change is in the eye of the beholder.
And these are technological stewards in the style of Silicon Valley: billionaires in cargo shorts and T-shirts who did something massive because they wanted to. Like so many tech startups, Whats App's success seems a bit accidental.
But the stance he has taken alongside Acton and Koum—not to mention the other Whats App engineers who worked on the project and the braintrust at Facebook that's backing the effort—is hardly extreme in the context of Silicon Valley's wider clash with governments and law enforcement over privacy.
But in a lot of countries you don't have these checks and balances," says Koum, dressed in his usual T-shirt and hoodie.And today, the enigmatic founders of Whats App, Brian Acton and Jan Koum, together with a high-minded coder and cryptographer who goes by the pseudonym Moxie Marlinspike, revealed that the company has added end-to-end encryption to every form of communication on its service.This means that if any group of people uses the latest version of Whats App—whether that group spans two people or ten—the service will encrypt all messages, phone calls, photos, and videos moving among them.The dreadlocked coder runs an open source software project, Open Whisper Systems, that provides encryption for messaging services.In tech security and privacy circles, Marlinspike is a well-known idealist.