WHATSAPP
A photo illustration shows a chain and a padlock in front of a displayed Whatsapp logo January 13, 2017.
(Photo: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo)

WhatsApp on Wednesday announced that it now has over 2 billion users globally, as it reiterated its stance to advocate for a strong encryption technology to safeguard its privacy.

Acquired by Facebook in 2014, WhatsApp has soared to become one of the most heavily used services in the social media giant's inventory of apps, offering free messaging in addition to video and voice calls.

WhatsApp said it will not "compromise" on the messaging platform's end-to-end encryption, despite warnings from government regulators. Bought for around $19 billion, the app uses strong encryption to protect the privacy of information sent through the service.

Software developers of the company said the encryption helps protect users from hackers and criminals, claiming that no one -- not even Facebook -- can decipher its messages or calls.

WhatsApp integrated the technology to reaffirm the importance of encrypting users' private communications, a practice that is earning massive amounts of scrutiny from regulators around the world.

Authorities argue that being unable to read users' messages makes it very difficult on their part to know when the app is being used in nefarious activities like terrorism, sex abuse, money laundering, and other criminal acts.

Child advocates called on Facebook last week to scrap plans for strong encryption in all its messaging services, expressing fears that it would allow the sharing of child pornography and predators to operate freely.

Stan Chudnovsky and Will Cathcart, head of the company's Messenger and WhatsApp responded in a letter to British, US and Australian regulators that allowing this kind of access would leave users vulnerable.

Facebook's encryption, Chudnovsky and Cathcart said, has been supported by over 100 organizations, security experts and industry groups who warned against moves to force tech firms to weaken their encryption.

WhatsApp says that it has no plans to get rid of encryption on its service. "In all of history, people have been able to communicate privately, and we don't think that should go away in modern society," Cathcart, who is also chief executive officer of WhatsApp, said.

Currently with 2 billion users -- an increase from 500 million when Facebook acquired the messaging service -- WhatsApp is the social media empire's second-largest app next to Facebook itself, which had 2.5 billion users as of December last year.

Interestingly, many Americans are not aware that Facebook is the owner of WhatsApp. Based on a survey conducted by Pew Research Center, only 25 percent of US know that Instagram and WhatsApp are owned by Facebook.