WhatsApp on a Pixel 2Source: Joe Maring / Android Central

What you need to know

  • WhatsApp is testing a new security feature in its Android app.
  • Users will be able to password-protect their backups when stored in Google Drive, providing an additional layer of security online backups currently lack.
  • It's currently an alpha feature now, so it's unknown if and when WhatsApp will release this to the public.

Currently, WhatsApp bills itself as a very secure messaging app with end-to-end encryption protecting your messages even when backed up. However, that protection only applies to messages and backups which are stored on your device. When moved to Google Drive for remote backups and restoration, WhatsApp warns you that the end-to-end protection no longer applies. It may soon do away with that warning. In alpha builds of the app, it's trialing out a new feature that will let you password protect the backups you upload to your Google Drive account.

As per the folks at WABetaInfo who learned this information:

WhatsApp is now focusing on security features, like the possibility to protect your backup hosted on Google Drive! The feature is in an alpha stage of development, so what we're showing now is very poor but it's enough to understand what's its purpose. Basically, the feature allows you to encrypt your backup with a password, so you're sure that nobody (neither WhatsApp nor Google) will be able to see its content.

There are some caveats here. Let's start with the most obvious one, it's an alpha feature. You won't see it today, and you won't see it tomorrow, it could be a year before WhatsApp enables it — just like with dark mode. Facebook is planning on merging WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram Direct on the backend sometime soon. It's not clear if this change could affect the merger or vice versa.

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"Privacy and security are in our DNA, which is why we have end-to-end encryption. When end-to-end encrypted, your messages, photos, videos, voice messages, documents, status updates, and calls are secured from falling into the wrong hands," WhatsApp says. With this addition — if it happens — data gets a bit safer from prying eyes.

An International Messaging Standard

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WhatsApp Messenger

Security in ubiquity

WhatsApp is one of the more secure messaging apps there is. Best of all, if you're in Europe, the Middle East or Africa, most people you know are using it. While some apps are better protected, in some cases, the best security is the one you can actually use.