How to configure WhatsApp Settings including Privacy

Photo by Rachit Tank on Unsplash

Seriously? Are you kidding me? WhatsApp Settings are easy to understand for everyone ? Aren’t they? What is so special about it?

Well, if you have these questions in mind, then this article is not for you. The problem is that my 70 years old mom and 14 years old son don’t understand.

In case if you don’t know, WhatsApp is owned by Facebook. Based on recent incidents (mainly Cambridge Analytica Scandal and finding as part of legal proceedings), I can’t believe that Facebook is not using WhatsApp Data by any means or not linking it with your Facebook profile somehow. I have stopped trusting Facebook completely. However, I also believe that Facebook has crossed the level where company can shutdown because of all ignominious news all over the place.

If you are interested, refer to the WhatsApp usage statistics written by Artyom Dogtiev and few amazing facts by Craig Smith.

What is WhatsApp

WhatsApp is cross-platform messaging app. It is very popular because of its SMS like feature across the mobile platforms. You can send messages to anyone anywhere in the world without any cost, as long as you have internet.

Internet can either be provided by your Cell Phone Service Provider or Wi-Fi Service Provider. You save money on limited number of text messages provided by your cell phone service provider.

WhatsApp is more useful when you want to send across messages across borders with no cost on internal SMS. If you have an internet connection, it doesn’t cost you a dime. WhatsApp allows you to send text, pictures, videos and audio messages as well. Now, you can also have audio as well as video calls over WhatsApp.

Sending all sorts of messages and audio/video calls may not seem valuable within the same country. But, international SMS and audio/video calls makes a huge difference from costing point of view.

End to end Encryption

WhatsApp has now also added the end-to-end encryption. As per WhatsApp, now these messages can’t be read by any 3rd party including the company itself. Messages can only be read by sender and intended recipients only. You don’t even need to configure any WhatsApp Settings to enable end-to-end encryption as this comes by default.

To support the security and privacy of users, encryption is the answer for most of the things if not everything. I appreciate WhatsApp for making such a seemless rollout of this feature for the end users. My 70 years old mom also uses WhatsApp. She doesn’t understand anything about IT or technology. She doesn’t even care about what the end-to-end encryption means for her or anyone else. But, now she also uses end-to-end encryption without even realizing.

WhatsApp Settings

We have talked enough about WhatsApp. Most of you are already aware what is WhatsApp. Let us get into the WhatsApp Settings now. Our focus will be on understanding privacy specific WhatsApp Settings. We will explain the meaning of the privacy settings, it’s values and the best values you can set.

Why we are stressing so much about Privacy. Well, there is a need to be aware and become wiser about Digital Privacy.

Step 1: Settings page

When you click on the Settings icon the “wheel” icon at the bottom right corner of WhatsApp. You see the below screen. The name of the person has been overwritten with yellow highlight to protect the privacy. Your name is shown along with your Display Profile (also popularly known as DP). The status is shown below your name.

We will not go into the details of rest of the settings on this page, but we will explain what each of these settings mean.

Starred Messages

This setting will display all of your messages which you have starred in your chats with one or more of your friends.

WhatsApp Web/Desktop

It will display a list of your all the active (logged in) sessions on various Web Browsers and WhatsApp’s Desktops Application.

Accounts

We will look into this specific section in more details in following section, so let’s us just leave it for now.

Chats

WhatsApp Settings for “Chats” allow you to set Chat Wallpaper, Chat Backup, Archive, Clear All or Delete All chats.

In addition, this also allows you to configure if you want to save all the incoming photos and videos shared with you on your phone. If this setting is turned on, it will save all photos and videos automatically. This is important, if you don’t want to lose any of the photos and videos at any cost. We recommend to keep it disabled to avoid collecting unnecessary photos and videos. It is better to save photos and videos you like manually. Otherwise, it will clutter rest of your photos on your phone.

Notifications

Here you can configure various notifications settings for the messages you receive.

Data and Storage Usage

In this setting, you can configure various settings related to internet data usage and storage usage.

Help

You can find Help FAQs, Term & Privacy Policy and Licenses related details. In case if you want to contact WhatsApp support, you can choose “Contact Us” option.

Tell a Friend

Not sure if this option is still useful, but in case if your friend(s) are not already on WhatsApp, you can invite them to WhatsApp in variety of ways.

Step 2: Account

In the screenshot in Step 1, when you click on the “Account”, you will see the below screen. The very first setting on this page is Privacy. Let’s look at this specific setting in more details

Step 3: Privacy

When you select “Privacy” option, you will see the following screen:

Every setting on this page is about you and what you want to share with others. Let’s look at each one of them one-by-one.

Last Seen

When you select “Last Seen” on the above page, you see the below screen. As you notice, there are 3 options provided:

Everyone

means everyone will be able to see when (date & time) you were last seen on WhatsApp. Everyone includes everyone on WhatsApp including people not even in your contact list (your phone’s address book). Though the condition is that you should be in their contact list. You can be on anyone’s contact list, in case if they are able to find your WhatsApp number from somewhere on the internet.

My Contacts

Everyone in your contact list will be able to see your last seen data & time, no one else will be able to. Also note that if you have set it as “My Contacts”, but one of your contacts has set this as “Nobody” then you will not be able to see their Last Seen status and they will not be able to see yours.

Nobody

Well, WhatsApp doesn’t want you to use this option, therefore it shows you a message that if you don’t share your “Last Seen” status, then WhatsApp will not show you anyone else’s “Last Seen” status. Fair enough. Right?

Recommendation

Recommended setting is shown in the picture below. From privacy point of view, you don’t need to show anyone that you are live on WhatsApp, but you don’t want to reply to their messages. Also, why do you need to know when someone was online on WhatsApp. The only advantage you have is that you know that someone came online on WhatsApp after you sent them a message, but they haven’t replied, which makes you wonder why?

WhatsApp doesn’t allow you to have this option turned on for selected contacts only. Either you can turn this on for everyone or all of your contacts or nobody.

Profile Photo, About

Similar to “Last Seen” all the options and their meaning remain the same for “Profile Photo” and “About”. Recommended Settings for the options are “Nobody”.

You don’t want people in your contact list to see your photo or who you are. They also don’t need to know anything about you.

Your contacts already know you and few things about you (if not all). Why you want them to show your profile photo or anything about you.

The basic purpose of sending messages and making calls is not affected and less (bare minimum) information is a good privacy practice.

You can share your photos and anything you want with selected contacts via chats. If you set WhatsApp Settings for “Profile Photo” and “About” as “My Contacts” then even those, whom you don’t want to share this information with, will also be able to see your details.

Same as “Last Seen”, WhatsApp doesn’t allow you to have this option turned on for selected contacts only. You can turn this on for everyone, all of your contacts, or nobody.

Status

WhatsApp launched this new feature, where you can share your “Status”, which is basically your story available for others to see for next 24 hours only. After 24 hours this status automatically disappear for others. They can’t see your status after 24 hours.

If you want to see your friends’ status, then you can select the “Status” icon at the bottom left corner of your WhatsApp screen. You will be able to notice this icon at the bottom-left corner in all the screenshots in this post.

The screenshot you see below is for WhatsApp Setting for “Status”. This setting gives you following options to choose from:

My Contacts

means all of your contacts including friends, family, colleagues and others. Everyone in your phone’s address book will be able to see your status.

My Contacts Except

This option is slightly better than selecting all of your contacts in address book, but not recommended. This option allows you to select your contacts, with whom you don’t want to share your status. But you know what, you can keep on adding news conatcts in your address book every now and then. You don’t remember (and it is not possible also) to go to WhatsApp Settings everytime and add new conatcts into the exception list, right?

Only Share With

This option is opposite of “Contacts Except”. In this option, you will select the list of contacts with whom you want to share your status. It is the safest option, because once you set this list yourself, it will not change automatically. Adding new contacts in your phone’s address book will not have any impact on this list.

Recommendation

WhatsApp Settings for “Status” should be set to “Only Share With”. On the next page of this setting you can select your friends and/or family with whom you want to share your Status for next 24 hours.

This will ensure that every time you share a status, it is only shared with people of your choice. You have almost everyone in your contact list, which includes your friends, family and your colleagues as well, right? You may not want to share your personal life moments with your colleagues right?

The default setting is the one shown in the screenshot below, which people forget to change. Whenever they share the status, it’s available to whole of their contact list to view. It is embarrassing some (or most of the) times.

WhatsApp Configuration for “Status” doesn’t allow you to select “Nobody” or “Everyone”

Live Location

WhatsApp Settings for “Live Location” shows you the list of chats your are now sharing your live (current) location with. Please make sure that this setting is always shows “None” as shown in the screenshot on Step 3 above unless you are sharing your location with anyone currently.

You may want to use this feature occasionally. Let’s say you are meeting your friend somewhere in the city. You have decided to meet a common point. In case if you are not able to find each other, then you can use this feature to allow your friend to find you easily.

Blocked

WhatsApp Settings for “Blocked” will show you the (annoying) contacts you have blocked previously. This list will be blank if you haven’t blocked anyone. You can use this setting to add new contact you want to block. You can also remove (unblock) an already blocked contact shown in the list.

Read Receipts

You already know the concept “Read Receipts”. It is exactly same as your emails, but it is applied to each message you send. If WhatsApp Settings for “Read Receipts” are turned on then read receipts will be sent to your contacts, where you read their messages.

If your friends have also turned on this option at their end, then you will be able to see when they have read your messages. WhatsApp shows this as 2 blue-colored tick-marks when your messages are read.

Unlike WhatsApp Configuration for “Status”, it doesn’t allow you to send Read Receipts to the selected contacts e.g. your spouse or your kids.

Recommendation:

Recommended WhatsApp Settings for “Read Receipts” is to keep it turned off. You may not want others to know when you have read their messages. Sometime, you might want to take your own sweet time to reply. Sometime, you may not want to reply at all. In this situation, you may prefer not to send Read Receipts and let others know that you have read their messages.

I hope this gives enough information on various WhatsApp Configuration. Any kind of criticism will be appreciated, which will help us improve.

Step 4: Two-Step Verification

Last but not the least, we highly recommend to turn on the WhatsApp Settings for “Two-Step Verification”. However, if you don’t know what “Two-Step Verification” is and you have never used this feature ever before, either for WhatsApp or for any other mobile app, then don’t set this up yet. We will soon write an article on Two-Step Verification soon.

You can turn on “Two-Step Verification” in Settings — Account — Two-Step Verification.

This post was written for WhatsApp version 2.18.70 on iOS 11.4 (15F79). Please add comments in case if WhatsApp Settings given above don’t match with your version and device. We will be more than happy to help and give clarifications.

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