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Google says Texas was fallacious about its cope with 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 Middle in San Jose, California on April 30, 2019.

Amy Osborne | AFP | Getty Photographs

On Tuesday, a bunch of state attorneys normal led by Texas filed a new antitrust suit towards Google. Though the go well with largely focuses on Google’s dominance of advert tech, it additionally accuses the corporate of conspiring with rival Facebook in a number of areas.

Amongst different allegations, the grievance claims that Google entered a cope with Fb subsidiary WhatsApp that provides Google entry to WhatsApp messaging knowledge, together with texts, images, and movies.

Nevertheless, Google says the declare is inaccurate, and appears to be primarily based on a misunderstanding a few backup function Google affords for WhatsApp and different messaging companies to make it simpler to switch previous messages to a brand new telephone.

“…shortly after Fb acquired WhatsApp, in 2015, Fb signed an unique settlement with Google, granting Google entry to thousands and thousands of People’ end-to-end encrypted WhatsApp messages, images, movies, and audio recordsdata,” the submitting mentioned. Subsequent particulars concerning the settlement within the go well with have been closely redacted.

A Google spokesperson instructed CNBC that the lawsuit’s characterization is inaccurate, and the deal is a fundamental function to again up messages in order that they sync from system to system. Google launched the backup function to assist customers switch their texts, images, and movies from one telephone to a different, according to a 2015 blog post by Google. Google does not use the backup knowledge to focus on advertisements, the spokesperson added.

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

However WhatsApp backups should not end-to-end encrypted, the company explains in a FAQ. As a substitute, whereas backups stay on Google Drive servers, Google has entry to the content material of that knowledge and will produce it in response to a subpoena, for instance. WhatsApp backups could 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 could be forged as anticompetitive partnerships between huge tech teams going through antitrust scrutiny. It is a minor level within the lawsuit, which focuses extra straight on alleged harms associated to how Google conducts auctions for advertisements.

A WhatsApp consultant declined to remark, however Alex Stamos, a former safety govt on the firm, urged an analogous interpretation.

“Fb doesn’t have that knowledge. The one clarification may very well be the optionally available WhatsApp backup, which works into GDrive on Android (iCloud on iOS),” Stamos tweeted.

— Jennifer Elias contributed to this story.