In a technical white paper published by WhatsApp on April 4, 2016, the WhatsApp team documents an encryption upgrade which happened automatically for over a billion users. This default architecture makes WhatsApp “the most widely used cryptographic tool on the planet” according to CNNMoney.
Interestingly enough, the push by the WhatsApp team to add end-to-end encryption pre-dates the iPhone security conversations with the U.S. FBI taking place over the last several months. According to an article in Wired, the encryption effort began in earnest in 2014. To me, the interesting aspect of this development is the near instantaneous “flip-the-switch” capability which brings end-to-end encryption to over one billion users. I assume, no permission is sought, no governments or official agencies consulted, no general change management practices employed. Since the architecture changes without the need for user impact, and the application’s capabilities are “enhanced”, the change takes place and viola, messages and communications move globally unhindered and now end-to-end encrypted.
Again, an interesting development where technology, corporate information management and personal communications intersect. Sometimes, change does just happen and the best plans must be flexible, dynamic and adaptable – and shared consumer solutions such as WhatsApp must be understood in the broader context of personal information sharing and collaboration and not internal corporate strategies.