If you can cast your mind back to 2009, you might remember that the concept of a free messaging service on your phone was virtually non-existent. BlackBerry had brought out their infamous BBM service a few years prior (which was only available BlackBerry to BlackBerry) and many of us had been using our beloved MSN via a desktop at home -however nothing that worked for all mobiles.
Spotting an opening, Brian Acton and Jan Koum created WhatsApp. With Apple’s App Store less than 12 months old, they saw an opportunity for an alternative to traditional text messaging. Fast forward 13 years and WhatsApp is the world’s most popular global messaging app, with roughly two billion active users worldwide (as of 2020).
WhatsApp is used by many for its secure end-to-end message encryption, something Instagram and Twitter cannot boast about – but there is still more we can do to keep our personal information on WhatsApp private. Our Cyber experts are here to share a few tips about how to do this:
Restrict who can see your profile picture
A common hack to find out who an unknown number belongs to is to add them to your contacts and then view their contact in WhatsApp. Here you can view a number-holder’s picture, status and often name, all from simply having their phone number. What many people do not know is that you have control over this, and you can choose who is able to view this information. Open the settings in your WhatsApp app, go to Account, then Privacy, Profile Photo and here you can choose between Everyone, My contacts and Nobody.
Turn off read receipts (aka the blue ticks)
WhatsApp displays a blue tick next to your message when the recipient has read it. Some enjoy knowing the fate of their messages whilst others prefer the privacy. If you are the latter, you can turn off your read receipts by going to your WhatsApp settings, Account, then Privacy, Read Receipts and switch the toggle to Off.
Turn off chat backups
Did you know that your backed up data can be accessed by Apple or Google? By turning off Chat Backups you can ensure the privacy and security of your data. Go to your WhatsApp settings, select Chats and go to Chat Backup. Tap on Auto Backup and select Off.
WhatsApp screen lock
You can add a screen lock to your WhatsApp app to keep prying eyes away from your messages. Go to your WhatsApp settings, select Account, then Privacy, and select Screen Lock, and click the toggle for Require Face ID. Once it is enabled you will need to use your Face ID to open WhatsApp (you can still reply to messages from notifications and answer calls if WhatsApp is locked).
Keen to find out more? Take a look at our Social Media Privacy Guide to learn what safety steps you can take with other platforms including Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.