WhatsApp is one of the world’s most popular chat services and if you’re concerned about privacy there is a lot that you can do to secure your experience. We’ve got a list of 6 things for you to check out, to maximize your privacy using this chat service.
1. Make sure your “About” Information is not too personal
By default WhatsApp is set to share more of your information with your friends and other users than you probably realize.
When you join WhatsApp you’re given the option to upload a profile picture and change the “Hey there! I’m using WhatsApp” About text to a more personalized message. Many people change this to include their occupation, website, other social media handles, the university they go to, or city they live in.
All this information is available to anyone who messages you on WhatsApp–even people you don’t know. This could leave some users vulnerable. For example, if you give your WhatsApp contact info out to a stranger you’ve just met on a dating app, that person could use such information to stalk you, especially if your About text lists where you work or live.
That’s why you should make sure the permissions options for who can see your profile photo and About bio are not set to “Everyone” and are instead set to “Nobody” or only “My Contacts.”
You can do this by going into WhatApp’s settings and tapping on Account>Privacy>Profile Photo and Account>Privacy>About.
2. Be selective about who can see your Status
WhatsApp also offers a feature called “Status” that allows you to share a photo or text as a status update. By default, all of your WhatsApp contacts can see these status updates—be they your friends or your boss. Be aware of what you are updating your status to and who is in your contact list that you might not want to see it.
It’s a good idea to be selective with who can see your Status updates. In WhatsApp’s settings, go to Account>Privacy>Status and change it from “My Contacts” to either “My Contacts Except” or “Only Share With.” The first option lets you exclude certain people from seeing your status updates. The second one allows you to give only a select few of your contacts the ability to see them. Generally, “Only Share With” is the safer option as it will automatically exclude any new WhatsApp contacts you’ve added since you last changed these settings.
3. Stopping letting people see how active you are on WhatsApp
Changing the “Last Seen” option to private changed my relationship with WhatsApp.
Under Account>Privacy the “Last Seen” option is set to “Everyone” by default. This means anyone you’re contacts with on WhatsApp can see when you were last using the app.
If you don’t feel like replying to friends’ messages right away—and wait hours or days to do so—they could clearly see you’re ignoring them because they’ll be able to tell the last time you opened the app.
If you go one step further and disable Read Receipts by going to Account>Privacy and toggling the switch to off. This way no one will know when you’ve read a message and you can get back to people when you feel like it. Trust me, this is incredibly liberating.
4. Keep more activity private from Facebook
Facebook owns WhatsApp and they claim that they’re not doing anything shady with your data, but we understand if you’re skeptical as well.
Did you know you can limit WhatsApp’s ability to access your data outside of the app?
In both iOS and Android, you adjust WhatsApp’s permissions in the phone’s Settings app. I recommend turning off access to your location, photos, contacts, calendars, microphone, and camera.
A word of warning: Doing this will vastly limit what you can do in WhatsApp other than sending text messages—you won’t be able to make voice or video calls. But keeping these settings set to disallow access to these privacy-critical data points means Facebook can’t do anything behind your back with that data. If you’re privacy-conscious, whenever you do want to share your location via WhatsApp or want to send a photo or make a call using the app, only then should you manually change the setting to allow access—and as soon as you’re done, change the setting back to disallow access to that data.
5. Make it harder for someone to hack your account
Maximum WhatsApp’s security settings, so no one can access your messages—even if they have access to your phone.
Enable two-step verification. You do this in WhatsApp’s settings by going to Account>Two-Step Verification. With this enabled, you’ll need to enter a PIN when registering your phone number with WhatsApp again. This ensures bad guys who have spoofed your number won’t be able to log into your WhatsApp account on their phone and see all your messages without that PIN.
On iOS you can add in another layer with bio-metric security, on your iPhone, go to Account>Privacy>Screen Lock. In iOS, toggle the “Require Face ID” or “Require Touch ID” switch to ON and choose how soon you want to require this authentication for opening the app again after closing it. Requiring this authentication to launch the app again means you can safely let friends use your phone knowing that they won’t be able to launch WhatsApp and read all your messages. (This feature is not yet available on Android unless you’re using the newest beta.)
6. Disable cloud backups.
Setting WhatsApp to back up your messages to online cloud services such as Apple’s iCloud is useful in that it gives you a way to retrieve those messages on a new device if your old one is ever lost or stolen.
However, when you back up your WhatsApp messages to services like iCloud, your normally end-to-end encrypted WhatsApp messages are stored in an unencrypted format, giving anyone who can access your cloud account, such as hackers, the ability to read every WhatsApp message you’ve ever sent. WhatsApp even explicitly warns users of this risk in the app. If that’s too much risk for you, the best thing is to disable cloud backup. On an iPhone, go to Chats>Chat Backup>Auto Backup and set this option to Off. On an Android phone, go to Chats>Chat Backup and make sure “Back up to Google Drive” is set to “Never.”
If you have anymore privacy tips, leave them in the comments below.