With over 2 billion active monthly users, WhatsApp is by far the most popular of all the messaging apps. People all over the world use the app to communicate with family and friends, as well as for business purposes. As with all messaging apps, there are security and privacy concerns that users fear when they use WhatsApp.
Individuals are not willing to give up their private information to other companies so willingly, and this is something that WhatsApp has taken to heart with new privacy features introduced in the summer of 2022. In this article, we will review the newest privacy features and policies available in WhatsApp and their implications.
The newest features introduced enhance the user experience and increase their control over their own privacy and the type of information they want to share with others. These new features include:
- Stealth Exit from Groups – the dreaded “X has left the group” message no longer appears when a user chooses to leave a WhatsApp group. This means that people are free to leave any chat without offending anyone or even letting anyone know that they have gone.
- More Control Over Online Notices – some people do not want others to know when they are online, and with the new update users are able to control whether contacts can see when they were last online and whether they are currently online.
- Preventing Screenshots – while not released yet, this feature is coming soon and will prevent people from taking screenshots of certain messages. This will help to protect private or sensitive information that people might share but do not want to be saved by the recipient.
- Message Deletion – previously, users could delete a sent message even from the recipient’s phone only for a short period of time after the message had been sent. This time period is being extended to 2 days, allowing more freedom to delete messages that were sent by accident or that contain information that the sender wants to protect.
User Data Collection and Use
One of the reasons why so many people love WhatsApp is because it uses end-to-end encryption, ensuring that only the recipient is able to read the message and it is difficult for would-be hackers to intercept. In addition, the company does not store the content of messages on their servers.
There is, however, information about users that WhatsApp does collect, including:
- Account information such as the phone number used to set up the account.
- Communities and groups the user chooses to join.
- Any information provided to customer support.
- Usage information including how often the app is used, the specific services used, timestamps, etc.
- Device and connection information including hardware used, operating systems, app version, language, time zone, etc.
- General location information.
It is also important to remember that WhatsApp interacts with third-party apps that have their own privacy policies and, once they have access to customer information, will act in accordance with those policies.
In the case of WhatsApp, users should be aware of what information may be shared with third-parties:
- When communicating with a business account via WhatsApp, consumers must be conscious of what information they choose to share and remember that information is being shared with a third-party business. WhatsApp is not responsible for what that third-party does with the information and they may store it and/or use it for their own business purposes.
- Depending on the privacy settings chosen, other WhatsApp users may be able to see a user’s account information including phone number and profile photo as well as add users to groups and communities. Once added to a group or community, the other members will also be able to see that information.
- WhatsApp uses third-party providers for certain services and has to share some user information with them in order to provide said services. For example, when a user chooses to share their location with another user, that information is routed through a third-party provider who then has access to that precise location information.
How to Manage Privacy on WhatsApp
Each user has the ability to choose privacy settings that suit his/her needs and level of comfort. It is up to the user to go into the app settings and choose the appropriate level of privacy. Examples of privacy settings include:
- Choosing who (everyone, contacts, or nobody) is able to view profile pictures.
- Who is able to see the date and time that the user was last seen on the app.
- Who is able to see status updates.
- Whether or not others are able to add a user to a WhatsApp group without permission.
- Setting up two-factor authentication.
Implications for Businesses
The vast majority of businesses across industries have clients and customers who use WhatsApp as their preferred method of conversation. It is important to keep privacy in mind when communicating with clients and customers, especially for companies that are in highly regulated industries such as finance and healthcare.
Regardless of WhatsApp’s own privacy policies, regulated businesses have their own rules and regulations to follow to ensure that private data and information is secure and – in many cases – stored and saved by the company. It is crucial to have a system in place that allows for the legal capture and storage of WhatsApp messages without violating users’ privacy but while still keeping a company in full compliance of regulations.
This is where LeapXpert comes in – our native integration with WhatsApp lets customers communicate securely using the WhatsApp they are familiar with, while ensuring that the organization has an accessible digital record of business interactions in compliance with all relevant laws.
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