WhatsApp Introduction: how to use it safely and privately

A helpful introduction on the advantages and disadvantages of WhatsApp, how to use, and privacy information.

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why WhatsApp?

What makes this app appealing is that it works on various phone and computer operating systems, so you can continue your conversation anytime, anywhere. It can also take advantage of Wi-Fi and cellular data to make one-on-one or group calls, reducing the need for expensive calling charges. WhatsApp uses your phone’s cellular or Wi-Fi connection to facilitate messaging and voice calling to nearly anyone on the planet, alone or in a group, and is especially nice for families and small collaborative workgroups. The app lets you make calls, send and receive messages, and share documents, photos, and videos. WhatsApp is completely free — with no fees or subscriptions

Whats App Privacy

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How to use Whats App


Mobile Compatibility



Desktop Compatibility



Safety and Privacy Concerns

Forced Facebook sharing data

There are many apps that share data with other companies, however, they also have an option to opt out of such services. However, Facebook, who owns WhatsApp, has given its users an ultimatum to either accept it’s updated privacy policy, or to not use the app at all. The new policy allows WhatsApp to share with Facebook, and other Facebook owned companies. Data that includes your phone number, other peoples’ phone numbers stored on your device, profile picture and names, statuses, as well as diagnostic data. This allows Facebook to build a profile of you, even if you don’t have a Facebook account.


Unencrypted backups

While WhatsApp provides end to end encryption, meaning that only you and whoever you are talking to can see the contents of the message or video, by default the backups of such messages are not encrypted. Messages from your friends, family, and important contacts on your device can be saved to a cloud server such as Apple’s iCloud or Google Drive. However, these messages have already been decrypted on your device, meaning that you can read them. Backing up these files means that any breaches into these locations (while unlikely) can lead to a lot of personal and sensitive data being leaked. However, WhatsApp does provide secured chat backups, but it is disabled by default.


Unclear content review system

WhatsApp provides a system for reporting messages that are inappropriate, abusive, or offensive. However, this system of reporting is not very transparent. WhatsApp claims that only the user can trigger a report, and that the offending content as well as the four previous messages are sent to WhatsApp for review. Additionally, unencrypted info can also be scanned, such as phone numbers of the reported. The lack of clarity is concerning, as there’s nothing stopping WhatsApp from changing this system like they did to their Privacy Policy to include all messages and content, or implement a system to look for keywords. 


Mozilla tips on how to control your data

The only way mentioned in WhatsApp’s policy to delete personal data is to delete the full account. This deletes your account info and profile photo, deletes you from all WhatsApp groups, and deletes your WhatsApp message history. It can take up to 90 days to delete the data. Copies of your information may also remain after the 90 days in the backup storage, ‘to recover in the event of a disaster, software error, or other data loss event’.