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Why it matters: While WhatsApp's instant messages benefit from end-to-end encryption, its cloud-stored backups don't. That means access to your chat backups, either nefariously or via a warrant, would grant access to your private messaging history. However, users who've been beta-testing WhatsApp on Android now have the option of turning backup encryption on, making their backups and messages more secure.
The anticipated security feature is available in WhatsApp's latest beta version for Android (18.104.22.168). When activated, both chat and media history in your cloud backups can be protected using a password. This comes with a catch though: if you lose your phone and forget your password (or the 64-digit recovery key), it won't be possible to restore your backup.
Your backup password is said to be private, and not shared with WhatsApp, Google, Facebook, or Apple. It can only contain lowercase letters and digits, and if you lose it, WhatsApp can't help you trying to remember it.
You should balance that caveat against the knowledge that if your Google Drive (or iCloud Drive) becomes compromised in any way, your WhatsApp chat and media history will be secure.
We're hoping WhatsApp will roll this feature out to more users, including iPhones soon. For now, it's available through the Google Play Beta Program in WhatsApp beta app for Android and like always, our Downloads section too.