WhatsApp doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to privacy. Many of its users assume that the app’s end-to-end encryption means that their messages are safe from prying eyes, but in reality, there are plenty of ways that WhatsApp can see and store your data behind the scenes. The company has become quite notorious for collecting its users’ contact information and using it to deliver targeted ads to their contacts, with very little transparency on what data it collects or how it’s used. How WhatsApp Keeps Your Privacy Protected

Back in 2009, it was all about encryption

When Facebook acquired WhatsApp in 2014, they revealed that they had hired Signal inventor Moxie Marlinspike to work on encryption for WhatsApp. Encryption plays a big role in protecting users’ privacy, but it was an even bigger part of their early development process. In fact, according to Whatsapp co-founder Brian Acton, it wasn’t just about creating a secure app. For me and my fellow co-founders, he says in Forbes magazine , it was essential that we could tell people how we were going to keep them safe. That meant a commitment from day one: What started as a simple idea evolved into something special and original.

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Now, you can share your location using Location Services

It’s really simple to use—if you want to share your location, open up a chat with a friend, tap Location and then select which contacts you’d like to send it to. That’s it! You can also choose from Here Now, Later Today, or Tomorrow in case you don’t want them to know exactly where you are.

How WhatsApp Keeps Your Privacy Protected
How WhatsApp Keeps Your Privacy Protected

If you change your mind later on, go back into Settings and turn off Location Services if necessary. When friends receive your location pin, they’ll see their own contact photo appear along with their full name under it so that they can easily figure out who sent it.

You can also stop others from seeing when you were last online

With Settings > Account > Privacy, you can change your account settings so that your last seen status is hidden from others. By hiding when you were last online, you protect yourself from stalkers and potential creeps who want to use social media as a means of stalking. If someone has your number and contacts you via WhatsApp, they’ll see your last seen status, but people won’t be able to view it if they weren’t in contact with you. For example, if someone messages or calls you but doesn’t have your number saved in their phone, they won’t be able to see when it was last active.

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Another security feature is the ability to delete messages after they are sent

Say, for example, you send a message to someone and within minutes realize that you shouldn’t have. As long as they don’t see your message on their end (or you screenshot it), you can remove it with a tap. This feature isn’t unique to WhatsApp—messaging apps like Kik also allow users to delete messages immediately after sending them. It might be tempting to take advantage of these features as an excuse for regretful or impulsive decisions, but using your head is more important than deleting things. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should . . . always consider whether an act is going to help or hurt you in the long run.

How WhatsApp Keeps Your Privacy Protected
How WhatsApp Keeps Your Privacy Protected

The latest update added support for disappearing videos

The next time you want to send a video message, you can choose between normal and disappearing videos. In a regular video, your recipient will be able to play it back at any time; in a disappearing one, they’ll only have 10 seconds after opening it to watch. And if they don’t do that in time? Well…it’ll vanish forever. If that feature isn’t quite private enough for you, there are ways you can disable WhatsApp Web (meaning your chats aren’t visible on your device) or use an alternative app like Wire or Telegram.

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In 2018, we will see even more updates

The latest rumour is that there will be a major update to these privacy settings, but we’ll have to wait and see what they are. Meanwhile, stay informed by keeping an eye on WhatsApp’s changelog. Remember: When it comes to protecting your privacy online, encryption alone isn’t enough; you need to take control of your own security too.

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