WhatsApp has more than 1.5 billion active users worldwide, which makes it one of the most popular applications on numerous platforms, including iOS and Android. Despite these impressive numbers, users naturally care about their privacy. It is likely because WhatsApp is owned by Facebook, infamous for its security problems.
So what data does WhatsApp collect? Does the platform track you? And how can you strengthen your security in the SMS application?
What information does WhatsApp collect?
The platform collects information that you initially provide to use it. This includes your name and phone number as standard, as well as additional information. Which you can send as your email address. It also covers your address book, which is necessary to use this service.
Usage data is also collected, usually to calculate figures on such data. This includes performance records, such as the hours you usually log in and how often you do it.
Remember: WhatsApp is a business, so you will use information to improve the application and promote its success. This is how we know, for example, that 58% of users use the application several times a day.
These are the same reasons why this service collects data about the device you are using, such as the model, operating system, battery level and version of the application you are running. In addition, it has connection details such as network operator, IP address and signal strength.
The platform also collects information through persistent and session cookies. The first helps the site load faster if you return in the future; The latter are removed once you turn off your browser.
Does WhatsApp share your data?
In some cases, WhatsApp shares information, although, of course, it is limited to the data collected previously. He insists that it is only about promoting the service, including marketing, security and personalization.
The application is free of advertising banners. However, it is used by companies, some of which can access your contact information. They can send you receipts, delivery information and reminders.
This naturally includes marketing. Then, WhatsApp feeds back the analysis to help companies understand the effectiveness of their communications.
You will notice that the amount of data collected has increased, especially since the acquisition of Facebook.
This service is part of the "Facebook Family", which means that data is shared between the SMS application and its parent company. The information obtained from WhatsApp is not publicly available, but is added to your hidden Facebook profile. This remains one of the biggest security concerns of WhatsApp.
Similarly, the application warns you about sharing more information:
“When you use third-party services or products of the Facebook company that are integrated with our services, you may receive information about what you share with them. For example, if you use a data backup service integrated with our Services (such as iCloud or Google Drive), they will receive information that you share with them ».
Thus, everything shared is governed by the policies of other parties.
This does not mean that other services do not collect your data. For example, Google records the use of the application through the Web and Activity function of the application. So if you use Android, it's not just WhatsApp that you should worry about. This is only if you have web and application Activity enabled, of course.
Does WhatsApp store your messages?
No, the messaging application generally does not save your messages. This is very positive, although this is what we should expect from an application of this type.
It uses encryption to send a message between devices, passing through WhatsApp servers. Once that message is delivered, it is automatically deleted from the service servers. This includes: chats, photos, videos, voice messages, files and location information that you share with your contacts.
Encryption ensures that only you and the person you are sending can read the message. Third parties cannot, nor can WhatsApp. This leaves your devices as a security issue: that's where your conversation history is stored.
However, messages can sometimes remain on WhatsApp servers if they are not delivered. After 30 days, they are removed.
Why couldn't a message be delivered? It happens if you or the recipient remain disconnected for a prolonged period, if you have been blocked (in exceptional cases) or if the other user has uninstalled the application.
What is "About" in WhatsApp?
You may have noticed that the application has a "About" section. Is this a privacy issue? After all, you don't want too much personal information available.
Do not fear: this does not contain confidential data. It is the short message that other users can see under your name. Some write a joke or quote that lets others know that they have added the right contact. But in most cases, it reads, "Hello! I'm using whatsapp". And few users change this.
If you want to modify it, click on Settings, in the lower right part of your screen, then on your name. Touch the "About" section. It offers you many options, including: «Busy», «Battery about to die» and «In a meeting».
Also, you can see what you read by looking in the "Currently set as" section; You can click on that message and replace it with whatever you want.
Does this app track your location?
Yes, WhatsApp can sometimes access your location, but it's up to you if you want to share it or not.
Without a doubt, you can share your location with your contacts, as long as you allow WhatsApp access to your location. This in the configuration of your smartphone. Simply select a conversation and click on the attachment button (+) next to the message field, then on «Location».
If you are concerned that a contact has your location in real time, go to Settings, then Account, then Privacy and finally Live Location. Ideally, you will read "None", but if not, you can disable the function of the remaining conversations.
As with standard messages, your location is sent by end-to-end encryption, so third parties (including cybercriminals and government agencies) cannot read it.
But even so, this service can read it. It is used for diagnostic and troubleshooting purposes. That is, if you have problems with location-based services.
WhatsApp can also determine your location based on your IP address, GPS, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi access points. It is certainly a worrying thought. To limit what they know, you must toggle which applications have this information in your device settings.
What does "State" mean?
Your status is a message that disappears after 24 hours. You can add text, including links or multimedia content, that is, a photo or video. You may want to inform your contacts that you will not have access to Wi-Fi during the next few days. In which case, this is a great tool.
It's a notion similar to the "My Story" feature on Snapchat. In fact, Mark Zuckerberg states that Instagram and WhatsApp (both owned by Facebook Inc.) are ranked as the two most popular story-sharing services.
What does "My contacts" mean?
Some details can be seen by people you haven't added yet. This is so they can verify that they are trying to make friends with the right person. Information is added in case someone is looking for you. That is what "Everyone" means. But you can change this to "My contacts."
You can change most of the settings to "My contacts" or "Nobody". However, your status gives you more options:
My contacts: This allows everyone in your address books to see your 24-hour status.
My contacts except: click on the arrow to access your address book and select the people from whom you want to hide your updates.
Just share with: This is essentially the opposite of "My contacts except." Instead of preventing certain users from seeing your status, this allows you to select only people who can see your status.
These three only apply to your state. So contacts can still read your information, among other things. Unless you also modify this setting.
How can you change the privacy settings in WhatsApp
If you want to strengthen your security in the application, you must go to: Settings, then to Account and finally to Privacy. There are many options available to you.
In particular, you can change who can see your profile picture, the "About" message and the Status. There are consequences, of course. If you hide "Last seen", which means that your friends cannot see when you last used WhatsApp, it will also disappear.