Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
Do you want to use WhatsApp, but don’t want people to know what you’re doing? By default, WhatsApp shares your activity with friends and the public in several ways. Privacy-conscious folks will likely have concerns about this.
Thankfully, you can use WhatsApp almost completely in secret. So, try these useful tips to regain some of your privacy while using WhatsApp.
1. Turn Off Last Seen in WhatsApp
By default, WhatsApp lets your contacts know when you last opened the app. You might prefer to hide this information so people don’t wonder why you’re not responding to their messages.
To do so, first open WhatsApp. On Android, tap the three-dot Menu button in the upper-right and choose Settings. For iOS, tap the Settings entry at the bottom.
Choose Account > Privacy and you’ll see an option labeled Last Seen. Tap it and change it from Everyone to My contacts or Nobody depending on your preference.
Once you’ve done this, it becomes a mystery when you were last online. But you won’t be able to see when others were online either.
Learn about more clever new WhatsApp features here:
2. Disable WhatsApp Read Receipts
Read receipts let the sender of a message know that you received it. Two gray check marks means that WhatsApp delivered your message successfully; they turn blue when the other person reads your message.
These are helpful for confirming someone read your message without responding, but you may prefer the other person not know you’ve seen their message yet. To disable them, head back to Settings > Account > Privacy and uncheck Read receipts at the bottom.
If you disable read receipts, you won’t see them for others either. And unfortunately, you can’t disable read receipts for group chats. But because it’s so useful, this is still one of the big WhatsApp settings everyone must know.
3. Hide Your WhatsApp Profile Photo
You may have set a profile photo your contacts can see while messaging you, but would prefer to hide it from people you don’t know. Or maybe you’d rather not show your face on WhatsApp at all.
To change your profile photo privacy, visit Settings > Account > Privacy. Select the Profile photo option, and again choose from Everyone, My contacts, or Nobody. They’ll see the generic outline picture instead.
4. Exclude Contacts From Status Sharing
Not content with just messaging, WhatsApp has added a “status update” function too. Only contacts can view your status, but you can pick exactly which ones enjoy that privilege.
Visit Settings > Account > Privacy and choose Status. You have three options: My contacts shows it to everyone you know, while My contacts except lets you specify people to block. Pick Only share with if you want to restrict your status to only certain people.
5. Hide Your About Message
Your “About” message in WhatsApp is a brief bio people will see under your name. It’s more for a funny quote or joke than it is for personal information, but you can hide it from unknown users or everyone if you like.
Like many of the others settings we’ve discussed, you’ll find it at Settings > Account > Privacy. Tap About and choose whether to show your About message to Everyone, My contacts, or Nobody.
6. Check If You’re Sharing Your Location
WhatsApp allows you to share your location with contacts. You can do this by tapping the Attachment icon in a chat and tapping Location.
While this is useful for short-term cases, you wouldn’t want to realize you’ve been unknowingly sharing your location with someone for months.
Thankfully, WhatsApp provides a feature to check on this. On the Privacy menu, tap the Live location entry. You’ll see if you’re sharing your location with any chats here and can disable it if so.
Speaking of this, location information is one of the smartphone permissions you should check you haven’t granted to apps unless it’s really needed.
7. Use Airplane Mode With WhatsApp
Airplane mode comes in handy for a whole lot of different things. As you’re probably aware, this mode cuts off all wireless communications, so your phone isn’t connected to the internet, Bluetooth, and similar.
While it’s intended for use on planes (as its name suggests), it’s also great for shutting out distractions and hiding ads in mobile games. But you can use it as a quick workaround if you want to read a message without alerting the sender.
Toggle the airplane mode shortcut by dragging down with two fingers on Android to open Quick Settings, or swipe up from the bottom to open Control Center on iOS. Then, open WhatsApp and check out the message you received. Since you’re offline, your “last online” time won’t update and the sender won’t get a read receipt.
Of course, you won’t receive new messages when in airplane mode, so it’s not a perfect solution. But it may still come in handy.
8. Take Advantage of Popup Notifications
You can use WhatsApp notifications to your advantage to read messages without altering the sender that you’ve done so. By enabling popup notifications on Android or alert notifications on iOS, you can see new messages in a big bubble on your screen.
For Android, visit Settings > Notifications. Select Popup notification and change it to Always show popup. You can also choose Only when screen on or off if you prefer. Repeat this in the Group notifications header below if you wish.
On iOS, you’ll have to change the notification style instead. Go to Settings > Notifications, then select In-App Notifications. Here, change Alert Style to Alerts. Unlike banners, which appear at the top and then disappear, these require your action to close.
Once you’ve done this, new messages will show on-screen. You can read them and close the popup without marking the message as read.
Staying Stealthy and Private on WhatsApp
If you don’t want to share any more information on WhatsApp than necessary, try putting these eight tricks into practice. They let you use WhatsApp on your own terms without having to worry about what other people think. Here’s more information on WhatsApp privacy settings if you’re interested.
But using WhatsApp in secret is only part of the fight. You should know about the most common WhatsApp security threats and make sure you’ve also taken these measures to make WhatsApp safer and more secure. And for more on online security, check out how you can delete your personal data from public record sites.