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Thursday, March 04, 2021

What data does WhatsApp collect about you? We asked for account information, here’s what we got

It is possible for a WhatsApp user to know exactly what all data WhatsApp collects about them. Here's what we got when we generated our account information report from WhatsApp.

Written by Shruti Dhapola | Chandigarh |
Updated: January 18, 2021 5:41:35 pm
whatsApp, whatsApp privacy policy, whatsApp privacy policy changes, whatsApp privacy policy update, whatsApp privacy policy news, WhatsApp data policy, WhatsApp privacy report, WhatsApp account information report, How to download WhatsApp data, How to delete WhatsApp messages, How to download WhatsApp message history, whatsapp policy update, whatsapp privacy featuresWhatsApp privacy policy update: Here's what user data WhatsApp collects about you. WhatsApp logo and binary cyber codes are seen in this illustration. (Images: Reuters)

It is possible for a WhatsApp user to know exactly what all data WhatsApp collects about them. This gains relevance in the wake of the controversy over the new WhatsApp’s privacy policy, which has now been delayed following criticism and confusion among users. A personal data dump will give a good idea of what data could be used by Facebook, if at all you are still worried about such a threat despite the clarification.

A user can simply go to Settings followed by Account and then tap on the ‘Request Account Info’ option. Here you can tap the option for a report, which is generated in three days. WhatsApp says the report contains account information and settings, and the report can be ported to another app as well. The report does not contain messages. That’s because WhatsApp does not keep a backup of your messages.

We answer all your questions on what data the report contains based on our experience.

First, how big is the WhatsApp data report, what’s the format?

Once, the report is ready and you download it, you get it in the form of a ZIP file. The ZIP file can be saved to downloads on your Android or iOS device. Remember you cannot view the downloaded report within WhatsApp. In the share tray, you can always choose to share with other apps as well. For instance you can attach it to your email and then open the report on your laptop or desktop.

WhatsApp, WhatsApp privacy policy, WhatsApp data policy, WhatsApp privacy report, WhatsApp account information report, WhatsApp account report download, How to download WhatsApp data, How to delete WhatsApp messages, How to download WhatsApp message history The WhatsApp user account information report is generated three days after you request it.

When I downloaded my report, it was around 124KB in size. This is tiny compared to how data reports look if you were to download them from Google or Facebook.

Read more: Leave WhatsApp, it’s voluntary: Delhi HC tells petitioner challenging new privacy policy

What does the ZIP folder from WhatsApp contain?

The ZIP folder contains a HTML file and a JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) file. Both files can open on any browser. The HTML file has all the details and is easier to read. The JSON file has all the contact numbers, your status, your groups mentioned, though the format will be confusing to many users.

What data does WhatsApp collect?

It contains your account information such as Phone number, the name attached to the account, the profile photo you currently have for WhatsApp, the device you are using, the time when you have been online, all your contacts, all group names of which you are a part of, the device type, the IP address, device build number, device manufacturer, details of the web/desktop version and the platform which is used for WhatsApp Web, your Status. It also has the exact time when you set the current profile photo and the current status message.

The list includes all contacts with whom you would have chatted on WhatsApp, and only the mobile phone numbers are mentioned. It also has your settings for the app, including the privacy settings for Last Seen, Profile Photo, About Privacy and Status Privacy. It also includes a list of the all numbers you have blocked and whether you have Read Receipts turned on.

WhatsApp, WhatsApp privacy policy, WhatsApp data policy, WhatsApp privacy report, WhatsApp account information report, WhatsApp account report download, How to download WhatsApp data, How to delete WhatsApp messages, How to download WhatsApp message history WhatsApp’s report also includes a list of blocked contacts, your privacy settings, the device you are using, the registration time, etc.

Further, the data set includes whether you accepted the 2016 Terms of Service, which was the first time that Facebook data sharing was introduced. It also has details on whether you opted out of data sharing last time. It also mentions whether one accepted the 2018 terms of terms, and in my case it says No. It also talks about the Consumer Payments Terms of Service and whether a user has accepted these and the exact time when it was accepted. These are for WhatsApp Payments, which has its own privacy policy.

What about data on calls logs? Does WhatsApp keep a track of who I call and at what time?

No, WhatsApp has already clarified it does not keep a tab of call logs. There was no call log data in either of the files. In fact, if it was keeping a track of this information, the files would have been considerably heavier, considering how often I rely on the feature.

Also read: Explained: Why WhatsApp is giving users more time to accept its privacy policy

What about contact information?

My data report included a list of all the Contacts, which simply listed all the phone numbers with which I have messaged in the past. It does not include the name of the particular contact. In fact, even in the new privacy policy, WhatsApp makes it clear it is not collecting details about your contacts, and if someone in your contacts is not using their services, they will anonymise that data.

The relevant paragraph reads, “You can use the contact upload feature and provide us, if permitted by applicable laws, with the phone numbers in your address book on a regular basis, including those of users of our Services and your other contacts. If any of your contacts aren’t yet using our Services, we’ll manage this information for you in a way that ensures those contacts cannot be identified by us.”

In a separate page, WhatsApp adds further, “We don’t store these phone numbers and only process them momentarily to create cryptographic hash values which enable us to more efficiently connect you with these contacts if they join WhatsApp.”

WhatsApp, WhatsApp privacy policy, WhatsApp data policy, WhatsApp privacy report, WhatsApp account information report, WhatsApp account report download, How to download WhatsApp data, How to delete WhatsApp messages, How to download WhatsApp message history The WhatsApp privacy report includes a list of all your contacts in the form of phone numbers.

What information does WhatsApp have about my groups?

My data report lists out all the groups I am currently a part of, and any groups which I was part of earlier. It is quite a long list, and for some users in India, it might be even longer. There is no other detail about the groups such as group members, group description, group icon photo or anything else.

Must read: Explained: How private is WhatsApp, what can Facebook see and should you look at alternatives?

Why does WhatsApp keep my profile photo and status ? Is this being shared with Facebook?

My report includes the current profile photo that I used for the account as well. It also includes my text based Status on WhatsApp. I don’t use the Status feature, which is more like Stories on Instagram and FB Messenger. WhatsApp does say in the privacy policy that if you use features like Status, profile photo, etc, they collect this information.

According to the existing privacy policy, WhatsApp does share information such as “account registration information (such as your phone number), transaction data, service-related information, information on how you interact with others (including businesses) when using our Services, mobile device information, your IP address,” with Facebook. This information could also include “other information identified in the Privacy Policy section entitled ‘Information We Collect’ or obtained upon notice to you or based on your consent.” Profile picture is mentioned in the ‘Information we collect’ section in the existing and upcoming privacy policy.

Also read: Experts on WhatsApp privacy policy:Look at fineprint on location and business messaging

What about when I’m online on WhatsApp?

The data report includes tabs for Connection State, Online Since, Offline Since, Inactive Since, Previous IP connection, Current IP connection. In my report it only mentioned that I was active, and that the app was in foreground and the time for online was mentioned as well, which is a date in 2021. The slots for Offline Since, In Active Since, Previous IP Connection were blank. My current IP connection was displayed in the data collected.

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