O Google is being sued in Texas by ten American states and accused of conspiring with the Facebook to violate antitrust laws and strengthen your dominance in the online ad market. The lawsuit also alleges, without providing evidence, that the company accessed messages from the Whatsapp without users knowing it.
Google read WhatsApp messages?
“As internal documents reveal, Google sought to eliminate competition and did so through a series of exclusionary tactics, including an illegal deal with Facebook, its biggest potential competitive threat,” says the suit.
WhatsApp is mentioned in only one excerpt across all 130 pages of the lawsuit. In it, it is alleged that Facebook signed an exclusive agreement with Google to provide data from the messaging app, including text, photos, videos and audios.
The end-to-end encryption adopted by WhatsApp prevents even the application from having access to messages, as they need to be decrypted with a public key and a private key.
However, as security analyst Alex Stamos – who has worked on Facebook – recalls WhatsApp messages, they could be accessed through the backup made on Google Drive.
As the application’s own FAQ warns, “Media files and messages saved in the backup will not be protected with WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption while in Google Drive”. The same goes for the iPhone version, which is backed up on Apple iCloud.
This does not necessarily mean that Google is eavesdropping on your messages. Commenting on the backups, Stamos says: “There are legitimate concerns about how this is used, but this process does not seem to be interpreted correctly.”
According to the WABetaInfo, WhatsApp prepares the option to put a password on Google Drive and iCloud backup.
Google says process “has no merit”
The lawsuit was filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is being investigated by the FBI for bribery. He also led an initiative, rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court, to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in four states where Joe Biden won against Donald Trump.
In a statement to the Reuters, Google says that this action “has no merit” and that it will defend itself in court. The company does not comment specifically on WhatsApp because it refers to an ongoing legal process, according to the The Verge, but points to a recent statement by CEO Sundar Pichai.
“We don’t sell your information to anyone and we don’t use it for advertising purposes in applications where you store mostly personal content, such as Gmail, Drive, Calendar and Photos,” wrote Pichai in June.
What the process says about Google and WhatsApp
The excerpt of the judicial process involving WhatsApp follows below. The reluctant parties (…) are censored in the document released to the public (PDF).
Google also violated users’ privacy in other blatant ways, when it was convenient for the company. For example, shortly after acquiring WhatsApp in 2015, Facebook signed an exclusive agreement with Google, giving it access to millions of messages, photos, videos and encrypted audio files from end to end by Americans.
As Google discussed internally, WhatsApp … They did not know that Google … As internal documents reveal, with the signing of the agreement, Facebook and Google started … without informing users.
Rather than worrying about this fundamental breach of privacy, Google was internally … In an internal document on the deal, Google discussed … In other words, Google is more concerned with negative advertising than with users’ privacy.