EXCLUSIVE: WhatsApp’s next version to include VoIP calls and recording
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With the introduction of VoIP call recording on WhatsApp, we may soon live in a world where regular folks have to watch what they say every minute of every day

The newest version of the WhatsApp mobile messaging app will include VoIP telephone calls as well as VoIP call recording, Geektime has learned.

Apps like Viber, Skype, Tango, Google Hangout, and Facebook already support VoIP, which allows you to make voice calls over a broadband connection. Beyond WhatsApp’s huge pool of over 600 million active users, which will undoubtedly compete against these VoIP providers, what is even more intriguing is the VoIP recording feature. Though add-ons are currently available for Skype and Google Voice to record calls, no other VoIP app includes this feature so prominently.

Legal challenges (a.k.a privacy concerns) to recording phone calls around the world

In the United States, it is illegal to record a telephone conversation without at least one other party’s knowledge or consent. According to federal law, you can theoretically record a phone call between you and someone else and not tell that person since you (one party) knows that the conversation is being recorded. However, many states require that everyone in a call knows that the conversation is being recorded, and depending on the state and case, federal or state law can override the other.

But in many countries, the practice is perfectly legal (if sneaky). In the past, it required special recording equipment that mostly call centers used for quality assurance purposes. These days, the sketchy ones among you have started to download special call recording smartphone applications.

For instance, in a country like Israel, where undisclosed phone recording is perfectly legal, wary citizens are careful to watch their words when, for instance, a business associate calls and says, “you owe me $10,000!” Because if they say yes, even in a moment of distraction, the evidence is admissible in court.

Recording phone calls: nifty or shifty?

With the new WhatsApp feature, private individuals will be able to record conversations more easily than ever before – needless to say, it could open up a can of worms.

What happens when everybody starts recording every conversation, just for the fun of it? And imagine that speech-to-text technology converts all the recorded phone calls into text, and these become legally binding written documents. What if phone conversations are regularly transcribed and then shared over the internet?

Combine that with the widespread adoption of wearable video recorders like Google Glass and we might soon live in a world where private citizens must watch their step at each moment of each day. That petty gossip you engaged in over a beer with a group of friends? It may have been recorded for posterity. A shouting match with one’s estranged spouse? Yeah, that could later be admissible in divorce court.

And what about children? Children say mean things all the time. Will parents soon be able to go to the school principal with recorded evidence of bullying?

Perhaps in the future, when we want to let off steam, we’ll just shout into an app that muffles our voices and that app will promptly, thankfully, erase it forever.

Until someone hacks into it (cough cough, SnapChat).


Photo Credit: Stinkie Pinkie at Creative Commons

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Simona Weinglass

About Simona Weinglass

I’m an old-school journalist who recently decided to pivot into high-tech. I work in high-tech marketing as well as print and broadcast media covering politics, business culture and everything in between.

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  • geekster

    Cool! been waiting for that for toooo long

  • In terms of the technology behind it, I believe it will be based on WebRTC: http://bloggeek.me/whatsapp-voice-calling-webrtc/

    I am also seeing a shift towards what is sometimes coined as Hypervoice, where voice is envisioned as more than just a voice call (as we know it today). This can include archiving and other capabilities. There are others out there who are starting to rely on voice recording. Talko for example: http://www.nojitter.com/post/240169096/talko-and-using-your-voice

  • Cedric

    Interesting implications for the citizen, Simona.
    We are rapidly drifting from one technology to the next, although in the case at hand, the drift does not imply a discontinuity in the technology involved – viz recording calls.
    What one can observe at user level is that people will either overlook or adopt a new feature/technology, seldom giving it a second thought. Mentalities evolves slowlier than technology. Political and social awareness of implications will always come with a lag.
    Quite literally, as a species, we are curious animals: explore first and decide later what to do with the discovery. It drives us and possibly too, much of the kind of progress acheived in times of peace.

  • Hello Meech!

    More on VoIP Whatsapp calling!

    Here are a couple of screenshots hinting those calls are here sooner or later!


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