Publica On Whatsapp: “Facebook Could Read Private Conversations”

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A new report from the nonprofit association ProPublica reports that Facebook may somehow be able to view the content of whatsapp messages, which would officially not be possible since conversations are protected from end-to-end encryption.

The report refers to the analysis of metadata, a system used by the company to try to detect “problematic” messages without knowing the contents. ProPublica reports that even directly moderators would be able to “examine messages, images and videos” sent by users.

In ProPublica’s long article, Facebook’s public statements on end-to-end encryption are denied.

“WhatsApp has more than 1,000 contract employees filling offices in Austin, Texas, Dublin and Singapore, where they examine millions of content sent by users. Sitting on pod computers organized for job assignments, workers use special Facebook software to screen private message streams, images and videos that have been reported by WhatsApp users as improper and then screened by artificial intelligence systems

“Many of the statements of content moderators working for WhatsApp echo a confidential complaint lodged last year at the US Securities and Exchange Commission. The complaint, obtained by ProPublica, describes in detail the extensive use by WhatsApp of external workers, artificial intelligence systems and account information to examine messages, images and videos of users. The complaint claims that the company’s claims to protect the privacy of users are false. “We have not seen this complaint,” said the spokesman for the company. The SEC has not taken any public action in this regard and a spokesman for the agency has refused to comment on it,” continues the report that the moderators of Whatsapp would work under conditions at maximum secrecy at a pay of 16.50 Dollars per hour.

But how do such analyses start? In another excerpt from the report, ProPublica explains:

“Because the content of whatsapp chats is encrypted, artificial intelligence systems cannot automatically scan all conversations, images and videos, as they do on Facebook and Instagram. WhatsApp moderators get access to private content when users press the “sign” button on the app, identifying a message as alleged breach of the platform’s service terms. This forwards five messages – the one presumably offensive along with the four previous ones in the exchange, including any images or videos – to WhatsApp in uncoded form” according to former engineers and moderators of WhatsApp.

In response to the article, a Facebook spokesperson said that “we develop WhatsApp so as to limit data collection and create tools to prevent spam, investigate threats and block those involved in abuse, even on the basis of reports we receive. This work requires an extraordinary effort from security experts and a highly respected trust and security team who work tirelessly to make private conversations. The same spokesperson also pointed out that WhatsApp has made available new features for privacy, including “more controls on how people’s messages can disappear” or be displayed only once: “on the basis of the feedback we received from users, we are sure that people understand

Just on privacy, Whatsapp today announced an important new feature that should come soon.

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