Everything You Need to Know About Your WhatsApp Privacy Settings
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It’s on iOS, Android, Blackberry, and Windows Phone, and boasts over 600 million active users worldwide – but after Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp Facebook WhatsApp, SkyDrive OneDrive, Yahoo Siri, Apple Tesla [Tech News Digest] Facebook WhatsApp, SkyDrive OneDrive, Yahoo Siri, Apple Tesla [Tech News Digest] Facebook buys WhatsApp, FCC responds to the loss of 'net neutrality', SkyDrive becomes OneDrive, Yahoo wants its own Siri, Apple is interested in Tesla, and Samsung mocks Apple in its latest set of television commercials. Read More , should you be worried about your privacy?

Earlier this year, we asked you if you use WhatsApp Do You Use WhatsApp? [MakeUseOf Poll] Do You Use WhatsApp? [MakeUseOf Poll] Are you using WhatsApp for your chats? Or maybe you used to and stopped following the acquisition? Scroll down and vote, it only takes a second! Read More . Over 60% of participating readers confirmed that it’s rather popular. We gave its iOS WhatsApp - The Perfect iPhone Messenger App WhatsApp - The Perfect iPhone Messenger App Read More and Android Better Than Text Messages & Free - WhatsApp For Android Reviewed Better Than Text Messages & Free - WhatsApp For Android Reviewed A moment of introspection, please: What do you do more often - call people using your phone, or text them? I would bet it's the latter. For many people, texting is more convenient than calling.... Read More versions glowing reviews. But it’s recently gone into partnership with Facebook, causing some to question whether their details remain as personal as before.

Here’s what you need to know about that messaging service sitting in your phone.

What Information Does WhatsApp Collect?

Their full Privacy Notice can be found right at the bottom of the Help/FAQ section of the app, but basically, the service collects User Provided Information, which covers your phone number and push name, obviously, as well as billing address once you’ve been using WhatsApp over a year. Occasionally, your address book is also sifted through in order to update your list of contacts who are also using it.

In most cases, they don’t sell any of this information on, fortunately, which is why the app has stayed ad-free since their inception. Nonetheless, your UPI is shared with third-parties in order to improve and maintain the service.

Just like all websites, the Whatsapp site sends both persistent and session cookies: the former helps the site to load again faster in future, while the latter are deleted when you shut down your browser. Similarly, theirs too collects your IP address, page requests, referring URLs bookending your visit to WhatsApp, and other data generally used to monitor average audiences.

Anonymous information like this is used to calculate figures about general usage, in order to improve the service and, like most websites, present to potential advertisers.

Information WhatsApp Doesn’t Collect

According to their Privacy Notice, WhatsApp won’t store personal information like names and addresses: your contact names and numbers are synched on your phone, not on the company’s servers, and this data isn’t sent to them.

Neither do they collect location-based service data, unlike Facebook.

Nevertheless, WhatsApp can’t guarantee the safety of any of the data sent through their app – though this is really a legal clause – so if you’ve been hacked, messages, for instance, might be at risk. If their servers are victim of breaches, you’ll be notified either through the app or as a general notice on their site. Oh, and MakeUseOf is likely to mention it too!

As Jan Koum, founder of WhatsApp, states:

“Respect for your privacy is coded into our DNA, and we built WhatsApp around the goal of knowing as little about you as possible: You don’t have to give us your name and we don’t ask for your email address. We don’t know your birthday. We don’t know your home address. We don’t know where you work. We don’t know your likes, what you search for on the internet or collect your GPS location. None of that data has ever been collected and stored by WhatsApp, and we really have no plans to change that.”

Does WhatsApp Collect Messages?

Short answer: not normally. Longer answer…

Messages aren’t typically kept or copied by WhatsApp for an extended period of time, or as they state, not “in the normal course of business.” Their servers, however, do store your messages for 30 days if they’re undelivered; beyond this time, they’re deleted. If the intended recipient is online though, your message will go to them – via WhatsApp’s servers but most importantly not stored there.

Don’t forget you can delete your chat history as well for added privacy. If you do this by mistake, you can retrieve your lost messages How to Recover Accidentally Deleted WhatsApp Messages How to Recover Accidentally Deleted WhatsApp Messages We'll show you how to recover deleted WhatsApp messages, and help make sure you never lose your WhatsApp messages again. Read More – but does this mean they do store your messages? Thankfully not: the database of messages is stored in your phone’s internal or external memory and backed-up daily. It’s a clever way of providing a good service without infringing on your privacy.

Alternatively, iOS users can store back-ups in the iCloud. After the recent celebrity hackings, though, that might not reassure everyone!

WhatsApp’s Privacy Notice states that they log “general information” including “time and date stamps and the mobile phone numbers the messages were sent from and to.”

Files sent using the service are retained even after being delivered, though are deleted and “stripped of any identifiable information” within an undisclosed amount of time, only referred to as a “short period.”

Okay, So What’s The Problem?

Facebook’s privacy settings are questionable (not that it stops over a billion users worldwide) – so much so, we created an extensive guide The Complete Facebook Privacy Guide The Complete Facebook Privacy Guide Privacy on Facebook is a complex beast. Many important settings are hidden out of sight. Here's a complete look at every Facebook privacy setting you need to know about. Read More . People get genuinely concerned about what information is being collected and what’s publicly available. If you are worried, there’s a privacy check-up tool to help regain control Protect Yourself With Facebook's Privacy Check-up Tool Protect Yourself With Facebook's Privacy Check-up Tool Facebook has a privacy problem. It's no secret. You hear stories about that every other day. So to help users understand their settings better, Facebook has released a new tool called Privacy Check-up. Read More .

Nonetheless, Jan Koum and Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, insist that nothing will change for WhatsApp. Koum, in particular, was keen to relax users, writing:

“Above all else, I want to make sure you understand how deeply I value the principle of private communication. For me, this is very personal… Our fundamental values and beliefs will not change. Our principles will not change.”

There have been other concerns about the app in the past: notably, last year, the combined might of the Dutch and Canadian Governments investigated WhatsApp’s ability to access complete address books, including details of numbers not using the service, and the company’s cryptography.

What Can You Do?

WhatsApp Privacy

If you’re still worried about your privacy, you can alter who sees your last seen (time/date stamp), profile picture (thanks to a recent update), and status. ‘Everyone’ essentially means ‘publically’ i.e. those with WhatsApp. ‘My Contacts’ is everyone in your address book i.e. family and friends. ‘Nobody’ means… Well, nobody at all! It specifically depends on your operating system, but generally, these can be altered through:

Settings > Account > Privacy

Those using iPhones can also disable iCloud back-up (or alter its frequency), so a record of your messages isn’t kept. All you have to do is:

Settings > Chat Settings > Chat Backup > Auto Backup

Alternatively, there are other SMS-like apps that favour privacy 4 Slick WhatsApp Alternatives that Guard Your Privacy 4 Slick WhatsApp Alternatives that Guard Your Privacy Facebook bought WhatsApp. Now that we're over the shock of that news, are you worried about your data privacy? Read More , so if you get too nervous about the involvement of Facebook, you could always switch. The only problem would be how many of your contacts also have whichever service you switch to…

Too Good To Be True?

WhatsApp and Facebook might sound odd bed-fellows, but if the former sticks to its principles, the collaboration is surely a good thing. As to the question of whether they will maintain their standards: well, we’ll have to wait and see!

Are you suspicious? Or do you think WhatsApp are true to their word? Maybe you’ve had an experience you’d like to share – bad or good! Let’s try to keep the Internet a generally positive place, eh? Let us know below.

Explore more about: Instant Messaging, Online Privacy, Online Security, WhatsApp.

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  1. 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.

  2. 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

  3. 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."

  4. 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."

  5. 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

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

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

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

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

  8. 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

  9. 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?

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

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

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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?

  14. 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

  15. 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?

  16. 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.

  17. 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? ????

  18. 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.

  19. 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?

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

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