Security Social Media

Everything You Need to Know About Your WhatsApp Privacy Settings

Philip Bates Updated 28-06-2019

WhatsApp boasts over 1.5 billion active users worldwide, making it one of the most popular apps across numerous platforms, including iOS and Android. Despite these impressive numbers, users naturally worry about their privacy. It’s likely because WhatsApp is owned by Facebook, infamous for its security issues.


So what data does WhatsApp collect? Does WhatsApp track you? And how can you tighten up your security on the SMS app?

What Information Does WhatsApp Collect?

WhatsApp collects information you initially provide to use it. This includes your name and phone number as standard, as well as bonus data you might submit like your email address. It also covers your address book. These are a necessity of using the service.

Usage data is also collected, typically to calculate figures about usage. This includes performance logs, like what times you generally login and how frequently.

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Remember: WhatsApp is a business, so will use information to improve the app and promote its success. That’s how we know, for example, that 58 percent of users go on the app several times each day.


These are the same reasons WhatsApp vacuums up data about the device you’re using, like the model, operating system, battery level, and version of the app you’re running. It further has connection details like network operator, IP address, and signal strength.

The WhatsApp site, too, collates information via persistent and session cookies. The former helps the site load faster if you return in future; the latter are deleted once you shut down your browser.

Does WhatsApp Share Your Data?

In some instances, WhatsApp does share information, though of course it’s limited to the aforementioned data collected. It insists it’s purely to further the service, including marketing, security, and customization.

WhatsApp is free of advert banners. Nonetheless, it is used by businesses, some of which can access your contact details. They can send you receipts, delivery information, and reminders. This does naturally include marketing. WhatsApp then feeds back analytics to help companies understand the effectiveness of their communications.


You’ll note that the amount of data collected has increased—especially since Facebook’s acquisition.

WhatsApp is part of the “Facebook Family”, meaning data is shared between the SMS app and its parent company. The information gleaned off WhatsApp isn’t publicly available, instead being added to Facebook’s hidden profile of you. It remains one of WhatsApp’s biggest security concerns Is WhatsApp Safe? 5 Security Threats Users Need to Know About WhatsApp security is a challenge. It's a favorite target of scammers and hackers. Is WhatsApp safe? Here's what you need to know. Read More .

This means that more specific information can be shared. The app warns:

“When you use third-party services or Facebook Company Products that are integrated with our Services, they may receive information about what you share with them. For example, if you use a data backup service integrated with our Services (like iCloud or Google Drive), they will receive information you share with them.”


Anything shared is then governed by other parties’ policies.

This isn’t to say that other services don’t collect your details. For instance, Google logs app usage through the Web and App Activity feature, so if you use Android, it’s not just WhatsApp you need to worry about. This is only if you have Web and App Activity switched on, of course.

Does WhatsApp Store Your Messages?

No, WhatsApp doesn’t typically keep your messages. This is a big positive, although it’s what we should expect from such an app.

It uses encryption to send a message between devices, passing through WhatsApp’s servers. Once that message is delivered, it’s automatically deleted from WhatsApp’s servers. This includes: chats, photos, videos, voice messages, files, and location information you share with contacts.


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Encryption ensures only you and the person you’re sending to can read the message. Third parties can’t and neither can WhatsApp. This leaves only your devices as a security concern: that’s where your conversation history is saved.

However, messages can sometimes remain on WhatsApp servers if left undelivered. After 30 days, they’re deleted.

Why might a message go undelivered? It happens if you or the recipient remain offline for an extended period, if you’ve been blocked (in rare cases), or if the other user has got rid of WhatsApp.

What Is “About” in WhatsApp?

You might’ve noticed that WhatsApp has an “About” section. Is this a privacy concern? After all, you don’t want too much personal information available.

Fear not: this doesn’t contain sensitive data. It’s the short message other users can see under your name. Some write a joke or a quote which lets others know they’ve added the right contact. But in most cases, it reads, “Hey there! I am using WhatsApp.” Few users change this.

If you want to alter it, click on Settings at the bottom right of your screen, then on your name. Tap on the About section. It gives you lots of options, including Busy, Battery about to die, and In a meeting. You can see what it reads by looking under “Currently Set To”; you can click on that message and replace it with whatever you want.

We’ll come back to how you can hide “About” from others.

Does WhatsApp Track Your Location?

Yes, WhatsApp can sometimes access your location, but it’s up to you to share it.

You can certainly share your location with contacts—provided you allow WhatsApp access to your location in your smartphone settings. Just select a conversation and click on the attachment button (+) by the message field, then Location.

If you’re concerned a contact has your real-time location, go to Settings > Account > Privacy > Live Location. Ideally, this will read “None”, but if not, you can disable the feature from remaining conversations.

As with standard messages, your Location is sent using end-to-end encryption Why WhatsApp's End-to-End Encryption Is a Big Deal WhatsApp recently announced that they would be enabling end-to-end encryption in their service. But what does this mean for you? Here's what you need to know about WhatsApp encryption. Read More , so third parties (including cybercriminals and government agencies) can’t read it.

But WhatsApp can read it. It’s used for diagnostic purposes and troubleshooting, i.e. if you’re having issues with location-based services.

WhatsApp can also determine your location based on your IP address, GPS, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi access points. It’s certainly a troubling thought. To limit what they know, you need to toggle which apps have this information in your device’s settings.

What Does “Status” Mean on WhatsApp?

Before we tackle which contacts can see what information, you need to know what “Status” means.

You can find this at the bottom left of your app interface.

Your Status is a message that disappears after 24 hours. You can add text, including links, or image content, i.e. a photo or video. You might want to let your contacts know that you won’t have Wi-Fi access for the next few days, in which case, this is a great tool.

It’s a similar notion to the “My Story” feature on Snapchat. In fact, Mark Zuckerberg asserts that Instagram and WhatsApp (both owned by Facebook Inc.) rank as the top two most popular story-sharing services.

What Does “My Contacts” Mean on WhatsApp?

Some details can be viewed by people you haven’t added yet. This is so that they can check they’re attempting to befriend the right person. It’s added information in case someone’s searching for you. That’s what “Everyone” means. But you can change this to “My Contacts”.

You can change most settings to either “My Contacts” or “Nobody”. Your Status, however, gives you further options:

  • My Contacts: This lets everyone in your address books see your 24-hour statuses.
  • My Contacts Except: Click on the arrow to access your address book and select the people you want to hide your updates from.
  • Only Share With: This is essentially the opposite of “My Contacts Except”. Instead of blocking certain users from seeing your statuses, this lets you select only individuals who can view your status.

These three only apply to your Status. Contacts can still read your About information, etc., unless you alter these settings too.

How You Can Change Privacy Settings in WhatsApp

If you want to tighten your in-app security, head to Settings > Account > Privacy. Plenty of options are available to you.

Notably, you can change who can see your profile photo, About message, and Status. There are consequences, of course. If you hide “Last Seen”, meaning your friends can’t see when you last used WhatsApp, theirs also disappears. Effectively, if you want this level of privacy, don’t expect others not to.

If you’re still worried, scour WhatsApp’s Privacy Policy. Fortunately, it’s easy to use WhatsApp and maintain your privacy How to Use WhatsApp While Maintaining Your Privacy Do you want to use WhatsApp in secret without giving a lot of information away to others? Then these are the settings to adjust in order to stay stealthy. Read More .

Related topics: Instant Messaging, Online Privacy, Online Security, WhatsApp.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Sonia Singhal
    July 3, 2019 at 10:38 am

    Thanks It's very useful.

  2. Penelope Josephine
    June 29, 2019 at 12:19 am

    This website contains completely original data.And this is good it will help you to improve your skills regarding antivirus.

  3. noone01
    December 11, 2018 at 7:46 pm

    Sounds to me like the writers of this article are pretty much in bed with facebook / whatsapp.
    Privacy guide for Facebook in a whatsapp article but not one for whatsapp?
    Very carefully 'positive' attitude....?
    Do I trust MUO? Not so much before, less now.

  4. Matthew
    November 12, 2018 at 1:30 pm

    Forcing me to give up my contacts and various other personal data on my phone in order to use the app is an absolute dick-move. This app is supposed to enhance privacy, not take a dump all over it.

  5. Nunka
    December 11, 2016 at 5:10 am

    This is a pretty poor evaluation off privacy concerns with these 2 giant corporations. Facebook revised whatsapp privacy policy, even though whatsapp said they wouldn't allow it. What about backup chat histories on the "cloud"? The gaping holes in security there, which is disapointing since for some people every message they've EVER sent is on there. Does whatsapp tell facebook which contacts you are communicating with? These are the kind of questions I was looking for

  6. Sandy
    November 29, 2016 at 7:02 pm

    Whatsapp support answered when questioned if they could confirm to me that my information isnt being shared: "There is no mechanism to check that you disabled the "Share my account info" option. However, if you were an existing user when we updated our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy and you do not see the option in your WhatsApp settings before the 30 day period had passed, then it means that you already disabled that option and you can be assured that your information is not being shared with Facebook to improve your Facebook ads and products experiences."

  7. Sandy
    November 29, 2016 at 7:00 pm

    My point is, WhatsApp support says they dont have a mechanism to see or know if you agreed or not on the sharing information! So... if they don't know who agrees or not.... how do they share or not that information! Copy past from an answer given to me about it: "There is no mechanism to check that you disabled the "Share my account info" option. However, if you were an existing user when we updated our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy and you do not see the option in your WhatsApp settings before the 30 day period had passed, then it means that you already disabled that option and you can be assured that your information is not being shared with Facebook to improve your Facebook ads and products experiences."

  8. roshan
    September 9, 2016 at 10:33 am

    lam not interested in agreeing your new privacy Policy and I didn't agreed to do so. Somebody by mistake press the " agree" button without my permission. So please do the needful to cancel the agreement

  9. Marli
    February 13, 2016 at 10:38 am

    Does your Last seen setting stay the same when you get a new device?

  10. Maria
    February 10, 2016 at 1:51 pm

    Can anyone see pictures that get sent between two people. Are those only for their eyes? ?

  11. Anonymous
    September 3, 2015 at 11:34 am

    if some has hide his last seen and i want to know his last see how could possible to know his last seen

  12. sunny
    May 16, 2015 at 11:13 am

    please i fine out that someone is using my Name and Email address on whatsapp.
    what can i do for my security?

  13. mohab
    April 24, 2015 at 12:42 pm

    how can i know the location of any one i talk with ?

  14. Davide
    April 16, 2015 at 4:18 pm

    My new messages on whatsapp are not going on top anymore as it used to do (cronologically I mean), so I have to always scroll down to see if I have new messages.

    Thank you.

  15. Davide
    April 16, 2015 at 4:17 pm

    My new messages on whatsapp are not going on top anymore as it used to do (cronologically I mean), so I have to always scroll down to see if I have new messages.

    Thank you.

  16. abraham
    April 14, 2015 at 8:13 am

    When i bought the phone whatsapp was already when i open it ,it told me to download i have download for many time but still it told me to download why?

    • Linz
      May 22, 2015 at 9:43 pm

      Where are you?

  17. Monu
    March 13, 2015 at 2:41 am

    How ti i know on facebook that which friends are using of whatsapp ?

    • satish rathore
      May 13, 2015 at 5:26 am

      My what's app contect no.are loss so resat my ehatsapp contect numbers

  18. Anonymous
    February 26, 2015 at 10:53 am

    Sir my whattsapp asking adjust date I adjust date but not response so tell me how adjust dste

    • Linz
      May 22, 2015 at 9:40 pm

      Yes what about you?

  19. Lalaku
    January 22, 2015 at 10:03 am

    It's not about hiding something - anyway, what if I want to hide a secret relationship? Can't I? - it's about profiling big companies make when collecting data from these apps. These profiles are EXTREMELY useful and used to market researches, designing new products, political polls, CONTROL. I'm not using whatsapp for now, trying to get informed on how it works.

  20. Alpha
    November 26, 2014 at 4:25 pm

    True privacy is when your chat lines, contacts and plans are not accessible to anyone. It may sound a little extreme but access to someone's private life must be with the consent of the person in question even if the info is for the service provider's administrators. What does anyone have to do with anyone's private life if the first anyone isn't a nosy rat?

    I'm using WhatsApp because I have nothing to hide either. But privacy is privacy. Do you like being overheard while talking to your boss and he storms at you? ????

  21. Fantomas
    November 25, 2014 at 12:53 pm

    I have friends that "point blank" refuse to use WhatsApp, as they do not believe their data will be secure. Trying to tell them we are not the president or CIA and that we don't really send sensitive when we ask each other: Going for a beer tonight? ....... they still refuse to use the App.
    I have nothing to hide ...... but if they collect your Contacts ...... well that is not something I wish to endorse.

    • Philip Bates
      November 26, 2014 at 12:31 pm

      I'd say it's pretty secure - at least as secure as iMessages. But things may change now that Facebook are involved, despite claims to the contrary.

      I, too, have nothing to hide, but that's no excuse for anyone trying to infringe on my rights of privacy. I'm afraid that includes an increasing number of governments whose tagline might as well be: "if you've nothing to hide, you've nothing to worry about." To me, that logic is a flawed way of controlling the masses. But that's the state of society we live in.

  22. Alpha
    November 25, 2014 at 11:35 am

    Privacy is what THEY define as privacy. Maybe they keep our data off people like ourselves but I greatly doubt it that they keep it away from things like intelligence agencies, police or anything nosier than ordinary people. One thing is sure: those who have armies and wealth, control things and for that end, information is key.

    • Philip Bates
      November 26, 2014 at 12:24 pm

      You're right there: data is shared with law enforcers and intelligence agencies if requested. (Think that's the case with most/all services.) Who knows how people are selected by interested parties though! What's the criteria and how far can this be stretched?

  23. Luke
    November 22, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    How to Hide, my we know about time last online go can hide time?