[REVIEW] : DMA: WhatsApp encryption in danger?

One hell of a mess…

Even if the latter is not affected by this measure (an annual turnover of more than 7.5 billion dollars, a market capitalization of at least 75 billion dollars and 45 million users in the EU), how will others solve this interoperability problem? We are talking about an exceptional delay of 2 to 4 years, but this will inevitably have an impact on the encryption of messages, calls and attachments. Will the big ones pay for the small ones? Who will decide which protocol to use? Isn’t there a risk of seeing a weakening, even an abandonment, of encryption on instant messaging?

Another measure that starts from a good feeling, but which comes up against a reality that European decision-makers do not understand or do not want to understand… Brussels is paved with good intentions.

Sending a message from Whatsapp to iMessage: the interoperability puzzle

One of the consequences of this new regulation will be cross-platform operability. Eventually, Whatsapp or Messenger users could therefore send a message directly to a Signal user or any other messaging application.

Regulate the competition

The new European regulation on digital markets insists on interoperability, in particular, for questions of free competition. With over 4 billion users, Facebook currently acts as a “gatekeeper” to the digital messaging market. The impossibility of communicating from the smallest platforms to the large ones indeed forces users to switch to the giant messengers such as Whatsapp or Messenger.

The new European rules therefore stipulate that interoperability must be implemented at the request of the platforms. The law will obviously not be functional immediately, and the technical details are still not made public. It is known, however, that a company will be required to allow cross-platform messages to be sent three months after the request; the permeability of calls may take up to four years.

Risks for encrypted data

The major problem that arises is that of the encryption of the data contained in the messages exchanged. The main advantage of platforms like Whatsapp over SMS is the guarantee of confidentiality thanks to end-to-end encryption. If the applications start operating with each other, this encryption could be compromised.

Today, each instant messaging application uses a different encryption code. Thus, message encryption could be lost in transit from one platform to another. To avoid the problem, two solutions exist: the use of a bridge between the two platforms or the adoption of a universal encryption code.

However, the bridge would decrypt the message before transferring it, posing major confidentiality problems. The adoption of universal encryption would perhaps be more realistic, especially since protocols of this type, such as the “Matrix” protocol, already exist.

Being able to send a message from WhatsApp to Snapchat, revolution or false good idea?

ou to be able to communicate easily from WhatsApp to Snapchat or Telegram without changing applications, this is what the European Union promises under its new regulation.

A prospect viewed as a user win by some and a risk to their data by others.

The European Union wants to decompartmentalize couriers

Interoperability. Behind this long word hides the decompartmentalization of messaging that the EU wants to impose on the tech giants here early 2023. The idea is to “give more choice” to Internet users, according to the press release.

With this regulation called “DMA”it is a question of allowing those who use “smaller platforms” to “exchange messages, send files and make video calls” with users of the major applications, without having to download them.

“No more silos!” Sacha Haworth, executive director of the Tech Oversight Project, an organization that campaigns for increased supervision of “Big Tech”, the big names in digital technology, reacted on Twitter.

“The fact that we are at a time in computer history where this type of interoperability must be the subject of a law is fascinating“, commented, on Twitter, Mr. Hicks, professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

And the protection of personal data?

But for Benedict Evans, an independent analyst, the idea that the only difference between messengers “is their logo” is “a naive idea“, he launched on Twitter. “They are systems and connecting them together raises all kinds of questions.”


A new European regulation

The objective of this digital services legislation, more commonly referred to as Digital Markets Act (DMA) is to ban “certain practices used by large platforms playing the role of access controllers”. For Benedict Evans, Independent Analyst, DMA is “a compromise, a measure that is good for competition but bad for privacy and bad for products. “.

Interoperability: a difficult promise to keep

With this regulation, the EU wants to impose the decompartmentalization of couriers to tech giants by early 2023. It’s about allowing those using “smaller platforms to exchange messages, send files and make video calls” with app users major, without having to download them. The idea is to “give more choice” to Internet users. A measure deemed impossible by the big names in digital technology.

Data security

One of the challenges that comes up most often concerns personal data security : “How can a user be guaranteed that he is not exposed by communicating with another messaging system? “. Indeed, WhatsApp, a subsidiary of Meta, has implemented systematic end-to-end encryption of all messages, including in discussion groups. On the other hand Telegram does not offer it by default, and Snapchat only provides it for photos and videos, not for written messages. Also, saying that “because all couriers use different algorithms for encryption, and some are the same, they can communicate is a misconception,” claims Alec Muffett, cybersecurity expert. “Interoperability with end-to-end encryption is somewhere between extremely difficult and impossible,” added, on Twitter, Steve Bellovin, professor at Columbia University and data protection specialist.

The European text is currently only at the stage of the provisional agreement. It must indeed still be submitted to Parliament and the Council with a view to its final adoptionhoped for during the summer of 2022.

WhatsApp, iMessage, Telegram, TikTok… The challenge of instant messaging interoperability

What if an Instagram member could send and receive messages from a WhatsApp, iMessage, Messenger, Telegram, Signal, TikTok or Snapchat user, or even from Slack, Microsoft Teams or Google Chat? The future European regulation on the economy of large digital platforms, the Digital Markets Act, aims to make such gateways possible: the political agreement sealed on Thursday March 24 in Brussels imposes an obligation of “interoperability” between messaging services. Behind this jargon term hides the idea of ​​opening up services in order to strengthen competition. But the implementation of the measure is already giving rise to technical debates and criticism.

Concretely, the obligation first targets the “basic functionalities” allowing the exchange of text messages, images, videos, voice messages and attached files between two users. Its implementation is scheduled for the second half of 2023. The bond targets “structuring” companies (more than 7.5 billion euros in turnover in Europe or 75 billion euros in market capitalization): Meta (parent company of Facebook and owner of Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp), Apple (iMessage) or Google will have to publish technical specifications allowing couriers who wish to communicate with them.