Jared Kushner’s alleged messaging habits has thrust WhatsApp back into the spotlight.
On Thursday, Democrats released statements from the senior White House aide’s attorney claiming he used WhatsApp, an encrypted messaging service owned by Facebook, to conduct business and communicate with foreign leaders.
Kushner’s attorney, Abbe Lowell, appeared to push back on the claims, saying in a letter to Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., obtained by Politico, that Kushner used the app to talk with “some people” but didn’t specify who those people were, noting he has “numerous friends and contacts abroad.
Two years ago, Britain’s Home Secretary criticized WhatsApp and similar messaging apps for not making them more accessible to authorities in cases including terror attacks in London killing four people. The assailants in those attacks reportedly used WhatsApp.
If you’re still not using WhatsApp, or even if you do, here’s what you should know about the app:
It’s very popular
As of January 2019, more than 1.5 billion users in over 180 countries use WhatsApp, created in 2009 as an alternative to text messaging.
Facebook acquired WhatsApp in 2014 to make a bigger play in the rapidly-growing messaging market, along with its own Messenger platform, which also boasts 1.5 billion users. At the time the deal was announced, WhatsApp had 450 million users worldwide.
Messaging across Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram is a top priority for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The company is reportedly working to integrate the trio of messaging services, which they believe could improve privacy.
WhatsApp uses end-to-end encryption
In April 2016, while Apple was fighting the FBI over unlocking an iPhone used by assailants in the San Bernardino, Calif., attacks, WhatsApp rolled out end-to-end encryption.
All messages sent through the platform are secured in a way that only the sender and the recipient can view the message. According to WhatsApp, not even they can hack their platform to view the message. Several other platforms including Apple’s iMessage and Signal also use end-to-end encryption.
Why this matters
Cummings says the communications raise questions whether Kushner and other officials violated the Presidential Records Act, which requires the president and his staff “take all practical steps to file personal records separately from Presidential records.”
In his letter to White House counsel, Cummings also questioned whether Ivanka Trump, a White House senior advisor and Kushner’s wife, used her private email address to conduct business.
Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @brettmolina23.