WhatsApp is under fire for privacy issues after it was revealed that Israeli firm NSO’s spyware Pegasus exploited vulnerabilities in the messaging app to put surveillance on 1400 targets including journalists and human rights activists in India. Keep in mind that end-to-end encryption, which the platform is quite vocal about, was not compromised but it was a zero-day security flaw in its video/voice call function that was exploited.
WhatsApp is among the most secure messaging services out there, thanks to end-to-end encryption, which secures messages, calls, photos, videos, etc. There are other privacy and security features as well such as the ability to block other users, hide the visibility of profile photo from those not in contact list, and more. We take a look at six WhatsApp features to keep in mind for privacy:
WhatsApp end-to-end encryption
WhatsApp offers end-to-end encryption by default for all messages, photos, videos, etc sent to contact. This means that these messages can only be read the user and the recipient and no third-party or WhatsApp can read them. Do note the end-to-end encryption is switched on by default and there is no way to turn the feature off.
Turn on Screen Lock for WhatsApp
WhatsApp has this in-built option to use screen lock to open the app, which can be accessed from Privacy settings. Go to Settings > Account > Privacy, then scroll down to select “Screen Lock” at the bottom. With the option enabled, you will need to require screen lock/fingerprint sensor or Face ID on iPhone X and later to open the WhatsApp app on your phone. You can also choose to immediately unlock WhatsApp, after one minute, 15 minutes or after one hour.
Choose who can add you to Groups
We have all been victims of being added to unwanted groups, which can be annoying sometimes. So, WhatsApp gives you the option to choose who can add you to Groups from whether “Everyone”, “My Contacts”, My Contacts Except…”, and “Nobody”. This can be accessed from Settings > Account > Privacy > Groups.
With the first option turned on, even people who are not on your contact list can add you to Groups on WhatsApp. The second option lets only your contacts to do so. It is important to note WhatsApp does not send a notification to contacts if you’ve barred them from adding you to Groups. The third option is for people who are okay with letting their contacts add them to Groups, except a few. If the last option is turned on, then nobody will be able to add you to Groups.
WhatsApp also has this invite system where if a Group admin who can’t add you to Groups is trying to add you, they will be prompted to send you a private invite through an individual chat. If you wish to join the group, then do so within three days as the invite will expire after that.
Choose who can see your Profile picture/Status
WhatsApp users can choose who can view their profile picture and also Status updates. Head to Settings > Account > Privacy >Profile Photo, where you can choose from “Everyone”, “My Contacts” and “Nobody”. The ability to change who can view your Status updates is also available in the Privacy tab.
In case of Status updates, there is the option of sharing with “My Contacts”, “My Contacts Except…” or “Only Share With…”. The second option lets you pick certain people in your contacts list with whom you might not want to share your Status. Once you’ve selected, the Status will be visible to everyone in your Contacts list expect them. The third option is quite simple as it lets you choose only the people with whom you want to share your Status.
It is important to make changes to Status settings before uploading a Status, otherwise, the settings will not be applicable.
WhatsApp allows for blocking other users as well after which they will not be able to message you or see your profile picture, Status, etc. When someone who is not on your contact list messages, the option to block that person is shown upfront.
If you need to block someone in your contact list, open that person’s chat and click on their name in the menu on top to open Contact Info. Scroll down and the “Block Contact” option should appear towards the bottom.
Turn off read receipts
Read receipts or the blue ticks can also be turned off for individual chats in case you don’t want your contacts to know when you have read their chats. However, once you turn off this option, you will also not be able to view their read receipts or if they have read your message. In Groups, your read receipts will always show even with the option turned off. To access this feature, open Settings > Account > Privacy > Read Receipts and then turn on/off the toggle.