Google says Texas was wrong about its deal with WhatsApp


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

Amy Osborne | AFP | Getty Illustrations or photos

On Tuesday, a group of condition attorneys general led by Texas filed a new antitrust suit towards Google. Although the fit generally focuses on Google’s dominance of advert tech, it also accuses the company of conspiring with rival Fb in a number of regions.

Between other allegations, the criticism promises that Google entered a offer with Facebook subsidiary WhatsApp that provides Google access to WhatsApp messaging info, including texts, shots, and movies.

On the other hand, Google says the declare is inaccurate, and looks to be primarily based on a misunderstanding about a backup function Google features for WhatsApp and other messaging products and services to make it less complicated to transfer previous messages to a new phone.

“…soon after Facebook obtained WhatsApp, in 2015, Fb signed an exceptional agreement with Google, granting Google accessibility to tens of millions of Americans’ end-to-finish encrypted WhatsApp messages, images, films, and audio data files,” the submitting reported. Subsequent particulars about the settlement in the go well with ended up closely redacted.

A Google spokesperson told CNBC that the lawsuit’s characterization is inaccurate, and the deal is a simple aspect to again up messages so they sync from system to system. Google launched the backup function to aid customers transfer their texts, pictures, and movies from just one phone to a different, according to a 2015 site publish by Google. Google would not use the backup data to concentrate on adverts, the spokesperson additional.

WhatsApp began utilizing close-to-conclusion encryption on all messages sent via its company commencing in 2016. That signifies messages can not be read by any one but the sender and recipient. Hackers, legal bodies that attain access to the messages by means of a subpoena, and even WhatsApp by itself are unable to examine them.

But WhatsApp backups are not close-to-close encrypted, the business clarifies in a FAQ. Rather, while backups keep on being on Google Travel servers, Google has accessibility to the content material of that knowledge and could develop it in reaction to a subpoena, for instance. Buyers can opt for to turn WhatsApp backups on.

On iPhones, WhatsApp can back messages up to iCloud, Apple’s cloud storage support. Those backups are not encrypted either.

The dispute in excess of the position in the lawsuit is an illustration of how program features like information backups can be solid as anticompetitive partnerships between large tech groups struggling with antitrust scrutiny. It is a minor point in the lawsuit, which focuses a lot more right on alleged harms linked to how Google conducts auctions for ads.

A WhatsApp representative declined to remark, but Alex Stamos, a previous protection govt at the organization, proposed a identical interpretation.

“Fb does not have that data. The only clarification could be the optional WhatsApp backup, which goes into GDrive on Android (iCloud on iOS),” Stamos tweeted.

— Jennifer Elias contributed to this story.


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