WhatsApp moderators can view users' private messages

WhatsApp moderators can view users' private messages

When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg introduced the company's new approach to privacy in March 2019, he cited WhatsApp messenger and its core feature - end-to-end encryption, which turns messages into an unreadable format that only those who intended to see them can see as an example. As Zuckerberg assured, no one else, not even the company itself, can read them. However, all of these assurances are untrue, according to new material from the non-profit investigative journalism organization ProPublica.


According to the article, WhatsApp employs more than 1,000 contractors in Austin, Texas, Dublin and Singapore who study user-generated content using artificial intelligence systems, as well as special software from Facebook. The tool allows you to analyze the streams of private messages, images and videos that the company has received complaints about, for example, fraudulent content, spam, child pornography or materials related to potential terrorism. Typically, the entire content assessment process takes no more than 1 minute.


Basically, the specifics of working as a moderator in WhatsApp is similar to Facebook or Instagram, writes ProPublica. That said, the recruiting announcement mentions “content research,” but does not mention Facebook or WhatsApp. For their work, moderators receive from $ 16.5 per hour. Anyone who asks should respond that they work for Accenture (Accenture itself declined to comment). They also sign a non-disclosure agreement.


Since the content on WhatsApp is encrypted, AI systems cannot automatically scan all chats, images or videos like they do on Facebook and Instagram.


According to former WhatsApp engineers, moderators gain access to private content when a user complains about a message that allegedly violates the service's policy. Further, this message, together with the four previous ones in the dialogue, is redirected to the moderator in unencrypted form and put into the queue.


Unencrypted data includes user profile names and pictures, phone number, status, battery level, language and time zone, phone ID, IP address and OS, wireless signal strength, linked Facebook and Instagram accounts, date of last use of the app, and history violations.


In a commentary on the article, a Facebook spokesperson stated that:


"We are building WhatsApp in such a way that limits the collection of data, but provides tools to combat spam, investigate threats and ban violators, including based on user complaints."


The company also noted that new tools have been added to WhatsApp to protect privacy, in particular disappearing messages.


“Based on the feedback we receive from users, we are confident that people understand that when they send a WhatsApp message, we receive the content they sent,” said a Facebook spokesman.

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