Pocket-lint is supported by its readers. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

(Pocket-lint) - WhatsApp has end-to-end encryption. But what does that mean and how does it impact on you? 

The latest versions of the Facebook-owned messaging client now ensure all messages, photos, video, files, and calls are completely secure for its two billion users (no matter what platform they're using).

That means only the sender and receiver of any given message will be able to see the contents of said message. Even WhatsApp won't have access to the message's contents.

End-to-end encryption does not change how you regularly use WhatsApp, but it will make it harder for WhatsApp to allow law enforcement, governments, and other authorities access to your private communications, even if they have a warrant.

This is at least part of the reason why some Governments - including the UK's home secretary - have complained about the security. However, there is a reason for that because criminals and terrorists can potentially hide behind the security offered by encrypted services like WhatsApp. 

Theoretically, WhatsApp is now one of the most secure ways to electronically converse with people across the world and various platforms.

What is end-to-end encryption?

End-to-end encryption is basically a secure method of communication. WhatsApp's rollout of end-to-end encryption prevents cyber-criminals, hackers, telecoms, and even governments from accessing the messages you've sent to other WhatsApp users. The idea behind end-to-end encryption is that your messages, media, and calls are now secured from falling into the wrong hands.

Here's how WhatsApp explains it:

"Many messaging apps only encrypt messages between you and them, but WhatsApp's end-to-end encryption ensures only you and the person you're communicating with can read what is sent, and nobody in between, not even WhatsApp. This is because your messages are secured with a lock, and only the recipient and you have the special key needed to unlock and read them. For added protection, every message you send has its own unique lock and key."

Why WhatsApp feels strongly about encryption

WhatsApp has been encrypting text messages since 2014 and spent two years teaming up with nonprofit software group Open Whisper Systems in order to offer end-to-end encryption across the service.

Jan Koum, the CEO and co-founder of WhatsApp, said in a blog post that he believes people deserve security and the confidence to speak their minds about sensitive information. It is, therefore, doing what it can to keep "people's information out of the hands of hackers and cyber-criminals." He also said that he personally believes people's private communication should be protected:

"The desire to protect people's private communication is one of the core beliefs we have at WhatsApp, and for me, it's personal. I grew up in the USSR during communist rule and the fact that people couldn't speak freely is one of the reasons my family moved to the United States."

Keep in mind WhatsApp is now unable to hand over messaging data, even if authorities are demanding access, but despite the strength of the encryption, it is not impossible for others to gain access.

Best VPN 2021: The 10 best VPN deals in the US and UK

Writing by Maggie Tillman and Dan Grabham. Editing by Max Freeman-Mills. Originally published on 5 April 2016.