WhatsApp reads your messages, other than end-to-end encryption

A caustic report from ProPublica opens up a disturbing scenario Umberto RAPETTOSeptember 10, 2021

"We cannot read or listen to your personal conversations, since they are end-to-end encrypted" reads the information that Facebook - the owner of WhatsApp - shows to the user who wants to feel comfortable. The reassurances about respect for privacy come to a head when the user sees on the screen "This will never change" (which is not clear - especially after reading this article - whether it is to be considered a promise or a threat). Why fear that already in 2018 Mark Zuckerberg - during a hearing in the US Senate - had declared "we do not see any of the contents on WhatsApp" and stressed that everything "is completely encrypted"? Yeah, isn't there end-to-end encryption that allows only the sender and recipient (the only ones with the necessary digital tokens or "keys") to make their messages readable? Let's hold back the enthusiasm According to experts and technicians of ProPublica, an important association for the protection of civil rights, the reassuring statements are without foundation or at least do not fully correspond to the truth. The system of "moderation" of WhatsApp contents is essentially the supervision that allows to detect the forwarding of messages that transfer spam, fake news and other disinformation, incitement to hatred and violence, terrorist threats, blackmail and extortion to sexual background, child pornography photos and videos, pimping activities. The service was contracted by WhatsApp to the multinational consulting company Accenture, which would have made available over a thousand operators required to examine texts and message files selected and reported by the automatic learning system that over time is perfecting its ability to fish with ever greater precision. WhatsApp was known to use certain professionals (although not everyone was aware that it was staff on loan from a third-party company) and to deliver the metadata to the Police (and here they imagined strict protocols to guarantee privacy). It was also known that WhatsApp reads the messages that the recipient reports because they are personally annoyed or because they believe they must involve the activation of the Police and the Judiciary. Many then also harbored the suspicion that Facebook shared the data of Instagram and WhatsApp users in its universe ready to swallow personal information.

We begin to worry

Now - thanks to the in-depth study of ProPublica - we have the opportunity to discover a slightly disturbing scenario. The moderators "loaned" by Accenture examine the automatic alerts of the system to take action against the user who forwards "dangerous" messages or content. They can block the account, warn the user that his actions may have consequences or "forgive" those who commit "venial sins". According to reports from ProPublica, moderators have access to the last five messages of a conversation detected as potentially "outlawed". If you look closely at the WhatsApp terms of service, you realize that if an account is "warned" (here too there is a kind of yellow card that precedes the "red" one of the expulsion), it means that there are referees and linesmen who control the game. How could they take any measures against "undisciplined" users if they do not know (apart from rare reports of victims) what they are up to, what they write and what the "rascals" send? Information for interested parties It is curious what is found in the information reserved for users in compliance with current legislation on privacy.

Under "User messages" we read that "WhatsApp does not store user messages during the normal provision of the Services", a circumstance that collides with what we have said so far and that, above all, has been meticulously detected by ProPublica. The information continues by stating that "The user's messages are instead stored on their device and are not usually stored on our servers", where "they are not usually stored" makes even the most distracted jump on their seats.

"Usually"?!? Usually when? Can't you be a little bit more precise?

The information must be clear, understandable and capable of eliminating doubts and uncertainties in the subject who - on the basis of that text - must be able to decide serenely whether or not to use a certain application or a certain service. The adverb in question in itself qualifies the suitability of the information and is an indication of a possible violation of the current legislation on the protection of the confidentiality of personal data. WhatsApp (or Facebook that gestis ce the platform) ensures that "Once the messages have been delivered, they are deleted from our servers" and that the only cases of temporary storage would be those of messages not delivered to the recipient possibly offline (with the provision of storage in encrypted form up to 30 days to retry delivery) and the forwarding of multimedia files (for declared needs to optimize the transmission of such contents). There would be no other storage possibilities ... However, there is no trace of the storage of files for "moderation" purposes (the one entrusted to Accenture).

So what? Two considerations.

First, we are spied on. To put it mildly we are checked for the good of the community ... The second. But if we are all controlled, why do stalkers, haters and high balenghi continue undeterred to annoy the unfortunate ones on duty? Why are the chats overflowing with inappropriate material often self-produced by minors who are not even old enough to use WhatsApp and the knowledge that those photos and videos are child pornography? We could continue inexorably in a sequence of questions, the same that ordinary people ask themselves every day. It is no longer the time to ask questions. The time for answers would have come for some time ... RAPET ARTICLE