Privacy scandal continues: WhatsApp accused of reading user correspondence

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Facebook regularly talks about the increased security and privacy of its WhatsApp messenger, focusing on the end-to-end encryption system. Back in 2018, Facebook founder and head Mark Zuckerberg stated that his company cannot view any content sent by WhatsApp users, since it is completely encrypted. Even the service’s privacy policy says that Facebook and WhatsApp cannot read the correspondence as it is encrypted, and this will never change. But it seems that Facebook is disingenuous, talking about the complete privacy of WhatsApp.

The non-profit organization ProPublica, whose editorial office regularly conducts investigative journalism, spoke about the WhatsApp content moderation system and confirmed the existence of a group of moderators of the service. According to reporters, WhatsApp moderators can read user emails, further confusing what Facebook means by end-to-end encryption, which means that only the sender and recipient have the keys to read messages.

The authors of ProPublica note that Accenture is responsible for the moderation of Facebook services. And now, at least 1,000 moderators hired by Accenture are reviewing messages from users around the clock, which have been flagged by the artificial intelligence system as suspicious. They track not only spam and misinformation, but also messages containing potential terrorist threats, material about child sexual abuse and blackmail. Depending on the content of the messages being viewed, moderators can either block the user’s account, or put him under “surveillance” or leave him alone if, after checking, it is found that the message does not pose any threat. Also, correspondence can be transferred to special services and other law enforcement agencies, including the US Department of Justice. But Accenture employees cannot delete messages. During one shift, at least 600 messages pass through each moderator.

According to the authors of ProPublica, Facebook downplays the amount of user data it collects and lies to customers about how it uses the information it receives and with whom it shares it. In addition, to moderate WhatsApp, Mark Zuckerberg’s company uses contractors represented by the aforementioned Accenture, which also reduces the level of security of the service, since data is essentially transferred to third parties outside the messenger.

Representatives of WhatsApp confirmed the existence of a group of moderators, but noted that their activities are aimed at combating the abuse of the messenger, and not at spying on users. What mechanism WhatsApp uses to decrypt the correspondence is not specified.

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