In response to the WhatsApp blockade in Iran, Meta has announced that the app will support the use of proxy servers in the future. This option is to be available worldwide and is explicitly designed to circumvent government internet blockades.
Measure against government blockades
In an official statement, the introduction of proxy support is explicitly presented as a measure against government Internet blockades: It is taken, it says, because “many other people continue to be denied the ability to contact their loved ones due to Internet blockades.” In addition, a reference is made to the recently imposed block in Iran: “Our wish for the year 2023 is that the Internet will not be blocked for anyone. Such blockages, as we have seen for months in Iran, violate human rights and prevent people from seeking help for urgent needs. However, if these blocks continue, we hope that this solution can assist people without a secure and reliable connection.”
The Islamic regime in Iran has been trying for months to quell protests that flared up after the killing of an Iranian woman by the morality police. In addition to executions of protesters, a partial restriction of the Internet has recently been chosen as a means of protest suppression.
Signal has already submitted
WhatsApp is not the first messenger to support the use of a proxy server. The messenger Signal, which is considered particularly privacy-friendly, already offered a corresponding function two years ago. In both cases, however, the proxy server itself is not integrated into the messenger; it has to be hosted externally and then integrated into the messenger. The latter step will now also be possible with WhatsApp.
This does not change anything in terms of the app’s security. The messages sent are already protected via end-to-end encryption, so they cannot be viewed by third parties – even Meta. The use of a proxy server does not change this.