WhatsApp to let users message without their phones – BBC News

Posted on

WhatsApp is testing a new feature that will let people message without using their phone for the first time.
At present, WhatsApp is linked to a user's phone. Its desktop and web apps need that device to be connected and receiving messages.
But the new feature will let users send and receive messages "even if your phone battery is dead".
Up to four other devices – like PCs and tablets – can be used together, WhatsApp said.
To begin with, the new feature will be rolled out as a beta test for a "small group of users", and the team plans to improve performance and add features before enabling it for everyone.
End-to-end encryption – a key selling point for WhatsApp – will still work under this new system, it said.
Several other messaging apps already have such a feature, including rival encrypted app Signal, which requires a phone for sign-up, but not to exchange messages.
But the feature has long been requested by WhatsApp users – of which there are a reported two billion.
In a blog post announcing the move, Facebook engineers said the change needed a "rethink" of WhatsApp's software design.
That is because the current version "uses a smartphone app as the primary device, making the phone the source of truth for all user data and the only device capable of end-to-end encrypting messages for another user [or] initiating calls", the company said.
WhatsApp Web and other non-smartphone apps are essentially a "mirror" of what happens on the phone.
But that system has significant drawbacks familiar to many regular users, as the web app is known to frequently disconnect.
Our multi-device capability immediately makes the experience better for people who use desktop/web and Portal. And it also will make it possible to add support for more kinds of devices over time.
It also means that only one so-called "companion app" can be active at a time – so loading WhatsApp on another device will disconnect a WhatsApp web window.
"The new WhatsApp multi-device architecture removes these hurdles, no longer requiring a smartphone to be the source of truth, while still keeping user data seamlessly and securely synchronised and private," the company said.
On a technical level, the solution was giving every device its own "identity key", and WhatsApp keeps a record of which keys belong to the same user account. That means it does not need to store messages on its own server, which could lead to privacy concerns.
But Jake Moore, a security specialist at anti-virus-company Eset, said that no matter how robust the security is, having messages on more devices could still be a concern.
"There will always be a malicious actor looking to create a workaround," he said.
"Domestic abusers and stalkers could now have the potential of using this new feature to their advantage, by creating additional endpoints in order to capture any synchronised private communications."
He also said that social engineering is an "ever-increasing" threat, and the responsibility lies with the user to keep an eye out for potential misuse.
"It is therefore vital that people are aware of all the devices that are connected to their account," he warned.
Facebook encryption ‘must not cause children harm’
Should encryption be curbed to combat child abuse?
Legal challenge over the government using Whatsapp
WhatsApp goes to court over India privacy rules
WhatsApp to limit service to all who reject terms
WhatsApp users flock to rival message platforms
WhatsApp launches privacy campaign after backlash
Suicide attack on Afghan mosque kills at least 50
Islamic State militants say they were behind the deadliest bombing since US forces left Afghanistan.
Philippines journalist among joint Nobel Peace Prize winners
Facebook to act on illegal sale of Amazon rainforest
Why India is on the brink of a power crisis
Tracking China's steel addiction in one city
The science explaining social media addiction. Video
The false science behind the ivermectin hype
Quiz of the week: How's your Korean?
The cheap way to cool India's sweltering homes. Video
Fast fashion: The dumping ground for unwanted clothes. Video
When will the new malaria vaccine be available?
Photo of ants feeding off honeydew wins competition
Lyrics quiz
Have you been getting these songs wrong?
Feeling hot
What happens to your body in extreme heat?
Suicide attack on Afghan mosque kills at least 501
Tiananmen Pillar of Shame statue must go – university2
Struggling Air India sold to Tata Sons3
Doctors warned about 'dry scooping' fitness fad4
Adele says new album will explain divorce to son5
Nations agree to 15% minimum corporate tax rate6
Facebook to act on illegal sale of Amazon rainforest7
US man who faked own death sentenced in Covid scam8
Nigeria's Tiwa Savage reveals sex tape blackmail9
US sub hits unknown object in South China Sea10
© 2021 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read about our approach to external linking.

source

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *