WhatsApp logo for article on WhatsApp privacy settings

If you’re a WhatsApp user, you have plenty of company—the app has 2 billion monthly active users, with people using it to communicate with friends and family at home and abroad.

The app has one big privacy protection, end-to-end encryption, which means no one can read the content of a message other than you and the person who receives it. Even so, if you’re a WhatsApp user, you may be sharing more information than you realize with your contacts—or anyone with your phone number. You’re also sharing a lot of information with Facebook, which owns the service. 

Information shared with other users includes your “about” blurb and photo, when you were last online, and whether or not you’ve read a message. Unless you tighten up your privacy settings, that’s all accessible to any stranger with your phone number. Additionally, your boss might notice if you’re checking your messages instead of working on the presentation due in an hour, and your friends will know if you’ve seen a message but decided not to respond just yet.

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More importantly, for many people, WhatsApp is owned by Facebook. Facebook might not be able to read your messages, but it can access the details of whom you contact, when, how often, and from where. The company does not allow WhatsApp users to opt out of any of this data sharing.

It’s also possible for police who have a warrant to gain access to people you’ve called or texted, or who have called and texted you. And if you choose to back up your WhatsApp data to iCloud or Google Drive, the messages won’t be encrypted there. Anyone with access to your cloud account will be able to read every message you’ve sent through the app. 

If you don’t like the data collection by Facebook, your best option may be to switch to Signal, a messaging app with end-to-end encryption that has much better privacy practices. However, on WhatsApp you can limit your location data or information about when you’re online from people who have your number, turn off read receipts, and stop people from adding you to group chats without your consent. Here’s how.

Stop People From Knowing If You’re Online

Anyone scrolling through WhatsApp contacts and clicking on your name can see whether you’re on the app now (that is, connected to the internet with WhatsApp open in the foreground on your device) or when you last were. You can prevent that, but it cuts both ways: If you don’t share your Last Seen status, you won’t be able to see other people’s, either.

On an iPhone: Go to WhatsApp > Settings > Account > Privacy > Last Seen. There you can change the setting so that this information is available to everyone, only to people in your contacts list, or to nobody at all.

On an Android phone: Go to WhatsApp > Menu (the three dots on the upper right corner) > Settings > Account > Privacy > Last Seen. There you can change the setting so that this information is available to everyone, only to people in your contacts list, or to nobody at all.

Hide Your Profile Photo

Don’t want anybody with your phone number to be able to see your profile pic? This is something you can change, and making your profile photo private will not stop you from seeing anybody else’s. 

On an iPhone: Go to WhatsApp > Settings > Account > Privacy > Profile Photo and select “everyone,” “my contacts,” or “nobody.”

On an Android phone: Go to WhatsApp > Menu > Settings > Account > Privacy > Profile Photo and select “everyone,” “my contacts,” or “nobody.”

Hide Your ‘About’ Information

When you click on a contact name in WhatsApp, you may see a short bio or a clever blurb, or just an away message. WhatsApp includes some you can choose from, such as “battery about to die, “Can’t talk, WhatsApp only,” “in a meeting,” “at the gym,” “sleeping,” or “urgent calls only.” You can also create your own about blurb. Whether you want it to be public, private, or available only to your contacts is up to you. Privatizing your “about” information will not stop you from seeing anybody else’s.

On an iPhone: Go to WhatsApp > Settings > Account > Privacy> About and make your selection: “everyone,” “my contacts,” or “nobody.”

On an Android phone: Go to WhatsApp > Menu > Settings > Account > Privacy > About and make your selection:  “everyone,” “my contacts,” or “nobody.”

Don't Get Added to Random Group Chats

WhatsApp lets people add you to group chats without your permission. But you can tailor your settings to select who can add you to groups. Admins who are unable to add you to a group will have the option of inviting you privately instead.

On an iPhone: Go to WhatsApp > Settings > Account > Privacy > Groups and select  “everyone,” “my contacts,” or “my contacts except.” If you select “my contacts except,” check off anyone you don’t want to be able to add you to groups. 

On an Android phone: WhatsApp > Menu > Settings > Account > Privacy > Groups and select “everyone, “ “my contacts,” or “my contacts except.” If you select “my contacts except,” check off anyone you don’t want to be able to add you to groups.

Turn Off Your Live Location in Chat

If you don’t want people to know where you are, turn off live locations in chats where it’s enabled.

On an iPhone: Go to WhatsApp > Account > Privacy > Live Location to see a list of the chats where you’re sharing this information, and remove any where you’d like to restrict live location access.

On an Android phone: Go to WhatsApp > Menu > Account > Privacy > Live Location. From there, you can allow WhatsApp to access your device location while using the app or deny access.

Restrict Access to Your Status Updates

WhatsApp allows you to share photo, video, GIF, and text updates that disappear after 24 hours. These can be seen by mutual contacts—that is, people whose numbers you have saved in your address book and who have their numbers saved in yours. You can share these with all your contacts or only specific ones you select. You can also share it with all your contacts except a select few. Changing the privacy setting on your status update won’t change the status for ones you’ve already posted.

On an iPhone: Go to WhatsApp > Settings > Account > Privacy > Status and select “My Contacts,” “My Contacts Except,” or “Only Share With.” For “My Contacts Except,” check off anybody who shouldn’t see these status updates. For “Only Share With,” simply select the contacts you want to share these status updates with.

On an Android phone: Go to WhatsApp > Menu > Settings > Account > Privacy > Status and select “My Contacts”  “My Contacts Except” or “Only Share With.” For “My Contacts Except,” check off anybody who shouldn't see these status updates. For “Only Share With,” simply select the contacts you want to share these status updates with.

Block People You Don’t Want to Hear From

Blocking contacts on WhatsApp will stop them from being able to call you or send you messages on the app.

On an iPhone: Go to WhatsApp > Settings > Account > Privacy > Blocked to see whom you’ve blocked, and hit “Add New” to block a new contact. You can also click on the individual you want to block, scroll down, and then click on “block contact” near the bottom of the page.

On an Android phone: Go to WhatsApp > Menu > Settings > Account > Privacy > Blocked Contacts to see whom you’ve blocked. To add a new contact, click on the icon on the top right (a person with a plus sign next to it) and select the contact you want to block. You can also click on an individual contact you want to block, select the “I” icon, and scroll down to click on “block” near the bottom of the page. Or you can click on the contact’s name and then go to Menu > More > Block contact.

Turn Off Read Receipts for Personal Chats

Don’t want people to know when you’re ignoring their message or have read it and just haven't had a chance to respond? You can turn off read receipts. Just be aware that doing so means you won’t be able to see read receipts from other people. There is no way to turn off read receipts in group chats.

On an iPhone: Go to WhatsApp > Settings > Account > Privacy > Read Receipts to switch them on or off.

On an Android phone: Go to WhatsApp > Menu > Settings > Account > Privacy > Read Receipts to switch them on or off.

Make Your Messages Disappear

WhatsApp recently rolled out a new feature: messages that disappear after seven days. That’s not foolproof, since a week is a long time for someone to take a screenshot. And it doesn’t stop the recipient from auto-downloading all their WhatsApp messages, forwarding the message, and so on.

If the person you’re texting doesn’t open WhatsApp in the seven-day period, the message will disappear, but its preview may still be displayed in notifications. And if someone responds to a disappearing message by quoting it, the quoted text may remain in the chat beyond the seven-day window.

On an iPhone: Within WhatsApp, click on the contact page for the person you want to use it with, scroll down to “disappearing messages,” and hit “on.”

On an Android phone: Within WhatsApp, click on the contact page for the person you want to use it with, scroll down to “disappearing messages,” and hit “on.”

Avoid Chat Backups

Backing up your chat history on iCloud or Google Drive means you can recover old conversations if you lose your phone, but it also means the information is not protected by WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption. The chats technically could be read by Apple or Google, or turned over to law enforcement.

So if you are really concerned about maintaining the privacy of your communications, turn off those backups. You can also delete any chats you’ve already backed up. And, of course, you’ll need to make sure that the people you are texting aren’t backing up the messages, either.

On an iPhone: Turn off Cloud backups by going to WhatsApp > Settings > Chats > Chat Backup > Auto Backup and set it to “off.” Then go to your iPhone’s System Settings > iCloud > Storage > Manage Storage > WhatsApp > Backup and make sure it’s off there, too.  Delete old chats by going to iOS settings > iCloud > Storage > Manage Storage > WhatsApp Messenger > Edit > Delete All.

On an Android phone: Go to WhatsApp > Menu > Settings > Chats > Chat Backup > Back up to Google Drive > Never. Delete old chats by logging into https://drive.google.com, clicking on the gear icon, and going to Settings > Managing Apps > WhatsApp Messenger > Options > Delete data. Disconnect the app from Google Drive.

Turn Off Photo Backups, Too

Photos received through WhatsApp are stored in your phone’s camera roll. If you use iCloud or Google Drive to back up images on your phone but don’t want to do so for WhatsApp, you can turn that off.

On an iPhone: Go to WhatsApp > Settings > Chats > Save to Camera Roll and toggle the switch to “off” if you don’t want the photos and videos you receive saved to your phone’s camera roll.

On an Android phone: Go to WhatsApp > Menu > Settings > Chats > Media Visibility and toggle the switch to “off” if you don’t want to see newly downloaded media in your phone’s gallery.

Turn on Multifactor Authentication

WhatsApp offers multifactor authentication to make users’ accounts more secure. Most services with MFA require you to log in by entering a short-lived numerical code generated from an app or sent to you via text message, in addition to your password. That way, if a hacker or anyone else has your password, it’s much harder for them to access your account. WhatsApp doesn't use a one-time code. Instead, it lets you set up a PIN to help secure your account. It’s a good idea to turn on this feature. 

On an iPhone: Go to WhatsApp > Settings > Account > Two-step Verification, select enable, and enter a six-digit PIN. You can also add an email address to your account to be able to reset your PIN if you think you might forget it, or you can skip this step.

On an Android Phone: Go to WhatsApp > Menu > Settings > Account > Two-Step Verification. Select enable, and enter a six-digit PIN. You can also add an email address to your account to be able to reset your PIN if you think you might forget it, or you can skip this step.

Report Abuse to WhatsApp

If you get a message that’s threatening, intimidating, harassing, or otherwise in violation of WhatsApp’s terms of service, you can report the content to WhatsApp. (Outside of the app, you can also report it to local law enforcement.)

On an iPhone: Go to WhatsApp > Settings > Help > Contact Us. To report messages from an unknown number or group, tap on the contact or group name, scroll to the bottom and tap “Report contact” or “report group.”

On an Android phone: Go to WhatsApp > Menu > Settings > Help > Contact Us. To report messages from an unknown number or group, tap on the contact or group name, scrolling to the bottom and tap “report contact” or “report group.”

Request a Copy of Your Account Information

WhatsApp allows you to request a copy of account information and settings that it has access to. It takes around three days to get the report, a security measure WhatsApp has in place in case a phone has been stolen and not yet disabled. If you delete your account or change your phone number, your request will be canceled. The account download feature shows you what kind of account information WhatsApp retains. It does not contain messages. Be aware that it’s possible for police to gain access to this kind of account information with a warrant. If approved by a judge, police may also place a “pen register” and a “trap and trace device” on a WhatsApp account, which will capture ingoing and outgoing telephone numbers used for calls or text messages for that account.

On an iPhone: Go to WhatsApp > Settings > Account > Request Account Info.

On an Android phone: Go to WhatsApp > Menu > Settings > Account > Request Account Info.