When Facebook bought WhatsApp for $19 billion in early 2014, it had 450 million users. 9 years later, it now has over 2.5 billion users with over 5 billion downloads on Android.
When it comes to privacy-focused messaging apps, WhatsApp doesn’t compare to the likes of Telegram and Signal.
It’s worth noting that WhatsApp uses end-to-end encryption which means Facebook, its owner can’t read your chats.
Here’s The Data WhatsApp Collects
Information WhatsApp collects includes account information, your messages, your connections and customer support. Data that gets automatically collected include usage and log information, transactional information, device and connection information, cookies and status information.
WhatsApp also collects third-party information such as data provided by other people, third-party providers and third-party services.
Here’s How To Protect Your Privacy and Stay Secure on WhatsApp This Year
Disable Cloud Backups
Cloud backups are allowed on the app and are helpful when you get a new phone and want to keep your previous chats.
The reason why you’d want to disable cloud backups either on Google Drive on Android or Apple iCloud on iPhones is that these cloud services can hand over your data when law enforcement requests it.
It’s unclear if WhatsApp informs a user when their account is being searched – its parent company Facebook lets them know their account is being searched unless when they’re ordered not to.
These backups aren’t encrypted very well and thus your messages can easily be read.
It’s worth noting that WhatsApp doesn’t have open law enforcement guidelines like Facebook. WhatsApp can be ordered to install a pen device that provides metadata that WhatsApp’s encryption doesn’t keep private. Other pen registers can collect more information such as device identifiers and IP addresses.
The metadata WhatsApp collects is enough to help federal agencies figure out the behaviour of a person of interest.
Signal doesn’t store any such metadata – however, contact numbers are shared with Signal servers. Signal then uses hash encryption algorithms to brute force these hashes.
Set up Two-Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication is a very important feature that you should not only enable on WhatsApp but also on all your online accounts.
You can either choose text-based, app-based or hardware-based (physical security key) 2FA methods.
Each time you want to verify your phone number on WhatsApp, you’ll be required to create a six-digit pin created with two-step verification on the app.
open WhatsApp then head to Settings > Account > Two-step verification > Enable.
You can then opt to add your email address so that WhatsApp sends you a link via email to disable two-step verification in case you forget your PIN.
Once set up, WhatsApp will irregularly prompt you to reenter the PIN. These prompts will come in handy especially if another person is trying to add your number to a new device without your knowledge.
Manage your Last Seen Controls
In 2022, WhatsApp introduced new Last Seen controls. The app had rolled out a new privacy option for your Last Seen – – My Contacts Except which allows you to set your last seen status to be visible for specific contacts. The new Last Seen status feature adds to the three options – Everyone, My Contacts or Nobody.
Now there’s a new fourth option – Same as Last Seen that rolled out for iOS and Android.
Single View Feature
If you like sending spicy photos and videos, then you will love this feature that lets you opt for ‘view once’ for videos and photos that disappear after the recipient opens it once.
Here’s how to enable this feature:
- Open a chat on WhatsApp
- Choose an image you want to send
- Before you send it, make sure you choose this option…
This will see the recipient view the image once, and the app will nuke it.
WhatsApp disappearing messages disappear after seven days and this feature is available for group chats and individual chats.
Here’s how to set up Disappearing Messages on WhatsApp
- Head over to WhatsApp: and select a chat either group or individual.
- To get to the chat setting, just tap the group name or the chat name
- Swipe down through the option until you see the Disappearing messages option and enable it.
Here’s everything else you need to know:
- Media and messages won’t disappear from outside the chat or from any device they’re saved on – this means that the already downloaded media(if you already haven’t disabled this option – Go to Settings > Chats> Chat Settings> Media Visibility> Disable this toggle) will stay on your phone
- If you don’t open the message within the seven day period, the message disappears. However, the message preview might still be displayed in notifications until WhatsApp is opened.
- When you reply to a disappearing message, the quoted text might remain in the chat after seven days.
- If a disappearing message is forwarded to a chat with disappearing messages disabled, the message won’t disappear in the forwarded chat.
- If you create a backup before a message disappears, the disappearing message will be included in the backup. However, Disappearing messages will be deleted when you restore from a backup.
Manage how people can interact with your account
One of the first steps is to disable read receipts. Here’s a handy guide on how to do that for WhatsApp and other social media apps.
Control who adds you to Groups by heading to Settings > Account & Privacy > Groups and then opt out of the “Everyone” option which has been enabled by default to either “All of your Contacts” or “All of your contacts except the people you’ve blocked.
This ensures that people who want to add you to groups randomly will have to send you a text message for your consent.
You can also limit who sees your profile photo, about section, last seen, live location and the about section too.
Another step you can take is to disable notifications for both that appear on the lock screen or the notification shade so nobody reads the message preview without having to open the phone or the app itself.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do that.
You should do this on per app basis and not just WhatsApp only.
WhatsApp now lets you decide if you want the images and other media shared with you in your chats to be downloaded and stored in your phone’s gallery or not.
In the past, you had to use different workarounds but now, this option is inbuilt.
Open the app, click the three-dotted icon, click Settings, Click Chats and scroll down to the Chat Settings and toggle off or rather disable the media visibility option.
Photos, videos and other media will now no longer be downloaded to be viewed in your phone’s gallery.
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