Google Drive will not provide end-to-end encryption protection for WhatsApp backups
WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned company, has notified its users that its end-to-end encryption feature for messages and media will not be extended to data stored as a backup on Google’s servers.
The end-to-end encryption feature of WhatsApp ensures that the message that only the sender and the recipient of the message can read what’s sent, and nobody in between, not even WhatsApp.
“Media and messages you back up aren’t protected by WhatsApp end-to-end encryption while in Google Drive,” WhatsApp posted using a note labeled as ‘Important’ on the FAQ section of its official blog.
For those unaware, on August 16th, Google and WhatsApp partnered together to provide WhatsApp users free and unlimited backups storage on Google Drive. Under the new agreement, there will be no restrictions for uploading WhatsApp backups on Google Drive. Also, the backups would not be counted against the Google Drive storage space (15GB) allocated to the user, like it used to do in the past. The new agreement is said to come into effect from November 12, 2018, only for Android users since iOS users use iCloud as the default for chat backup.
In fact, WhatsApp in the past too had clarified that data backed up and stored on Google Drive is not encrypted.
WhatsApp also said that Google will automatically delete all the WhatsApp messages and media that haven’t been updated in more than a year. In order to avoid loss of any backup content, users should back-up their WhatsApp accounts manually before November 12, 2018.
If you wish to back up your WhatsApp chats, here’s how you can do it.
- Ensure that you have Google Drive setup on your phone.
- Go to WhatsApp, then go to Menu (3 dots on right top) > Settings > Chats > Chat Backup.
- Select “Back up to Google Drive” and you will automatically see everything getting backed up to Google Drive.
However, before you get started, ensure that you are connected to Wi-Fi, as WhatsApp backups can be large and may use too much internet data.
On the other hand, Sai Krishna Kothapalli, an independent security researcher, mentioned that backing up chats using Google Drive is completely voluntary and WhatsApp doesn’t compel its users to do so. However, using Google Drive for backing up data is the most convenient method to store important chats, particularly when a user wants to change devices.
“From a privacy perspective (completely discounting convenience) online backups are no good regardless of who the custodian is. While Google does encrypt files on the server side they also ultimately control the keys for those — which can be provided to law enforcement authorities on the basis of a warrant,” Karan Saini, independent security researcher, was quoted as saying by the Economic Times.
Users who are not interested in backing up data, can turn off automatic Google Drive backups by heading over to Settings > Chats > Chat Backup > Backup to Google Drive, and changing the setting to ‘Never’.
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Gurupriyan is a Software Engineer and a technology enthusiast, he’s been working on the field for the last 6 years. Currently focusing on mobile app development and IoT.