Google says Texas was improper about its take care of WhatsApp — it is only a backup service

Fb CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers the opening keynote introducing new Fb, Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram privateness options on the Fb F8 Convention at McEnery Conference Heart in San Jose, California on April 30, 2019.

Amy Osborne | AFP | Getty Photos

On Tuesday, a bunch of state attorneys basic led by Texas filed a brand new antitrust swimsuit in opposition to Google. Though the swimsuit principally focuses on Google’s dominance of advert tech, it additionally accuses the corporate of conspiring with rival Fb in a number of areas.

Amongst different allegations, the criticism claims that Google entered a take care of Fb subsidiary WhatsApp that offers Google entry to WhatsApp messaging information, together with texts, pictures, and movies.

Nevertheless, Google says the declare is inaccurate, and appears to be primarily based on a misunderstanding a couple of backup characteristic Google gives for WhatsApp and different messaging companies to make it simpler to switch outdated messages to a brand new cellphone.

“…shortly after Fb acquired WhatsApp, in 2015, Fb signed an unique settlement with Google, granting Google entry to hundreds of thousands of Individuals’ end-to-end encrypted WhatsApp messages, pictures, movies, and audio recordsdata,” the submitting mentioned. Subsequent particulars in regards to the settlement within the swimsuit had been closely redacted.

A Google spokesperson advised CNBC that the lawsuit’s characterization is inaccurate, and the deal is a fundamental characteristic to again up messages so that they sync from gadget to gadget. Google launched the backup characteristic to assist customers switch their texts, pictures, and movies from one cellphone to a different, in keeping with a 2015 weblog publish by Google. Google would not use the backup information to focus on adverts, the spokesperson added.

WhatsApp started utilizing end-to-end encryption on all messages despatched by its service beginning in 2016. Which means messages can’t be learn by anyone however the sender and recipient. Hackers, authorized our bodies that acquire entry to the messages by a subpoena, and even WhatsApp itself can’t learn them.

However WhatsApp backups are usually not end-to-end encrypted, the corporate explains in a FAQ. As a substitute, whereas backups stay on Google Drive servers, Google has entry to the content material of that information and will produce it in response to a subpoena, for instance. WhatsApp backups will be turned off.

On iPhones, WhatsApp can again messages as much as iCloud, Apple‘s cloud storage service. These backups aren’t encrypted both.

The dispute over the purpose within the lawsuit is an instance of how routine options like message backups will be solid as anticompetitive partnerships between huge tech teams dealing with antitrust scrutiny. It is a minor level within the lawsuit, which focuses extra immediately on alleged harms associated to how Google conducts auctions for adverts.

A WhatsApp consultant declined to remark, however Alex Stamos, a former safety government on the firm, urged the same interpretation.

“Fb doesn’t have that information. The one rationalization could possibly be the non-compulsory WhatsApp backup, which matches into GDrive on Android (iCloud on iOS),” Stamos tweeted.

— Jennifer Elias contributed to this story.

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