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Sci-Tech
Sunday Jan 17 2021
By
Web Desk

What information does WhatsApp collect from its users?

By
Web Desk
— Shutterstock image

WhatsApp has been battling to answer concerns voiced by millions of users across the globe after its latest update to the terms of its service, in which it stated that it reserves the right to share data it collects about users with the broader Facebook network, which includes Instagram.

Although WhatsApp has since said it is pushing back the mandatory date for users to accept the new terms of service, one question that comes to mind is what information exactly does WhatsApp collect from its users to share with Facebook companies.

According to the messaging platform, the information it shares with the other Facebook Companies includes:

- your account registration information (such as your phone number)
- transaction data
- service-related information
- information on how you interact with others (including businesses) when using WhatsApp's Services
- mobile device information
- your IP address
- other information identified in the Privacy Policy section entitled ‘Information We Collect’ (Read more on this below)

Information WhatsApp collects

WhatsApp, in its privacy policy has explained there is information that a user chooses to provide, as well as information that is automatically collected by the platform.

Information provided by users

Information provided by users and how it is used is explained below:

Account Information: This includes mobile phone numbers of the user, as well as those in the mobile address book — both of users that have WhatsApp as well as other contacts.

This also includes other information related to the account, such as a profile name, profile picture, and status message.

Messages: WhatsApp does not retain any messages. 

"Once your messages (including your chats, photos, videos, voice messages, files, and share location information) are delivered, they are deleted from our servers. Your messages are stored on your own device," explains the privacy policy.

It adds that if a message is not delivered, it is stored for 30 days as WhatsApp tries to deliver it to the user it was sent to. After that time, it is deleted from the servers.

WhatsApp has said time and again its messages are end-to-end encrypted for users of the app  released after April 2, 2016.

"End-to-end encryption means that your messages are encrypted to protect against us and third parties from reading them," says the messaging platform.

Your Connections: This includes a favourites list of the users' contacts.

"You can create, join, or get added to groups and broadcast lists, and such groups and lists get associated with your account information," according to the privacy policy.

Customer Support: If a user sends WhatsApp an email with information relating to the app's performance or other issues, it is retained.

Information collected automatically

Information automatically collected and how it is used is explained below:

Usage and Log Information: WhatsApp collects service-related, diagnostic, and performance information. This includes information about a users' activity, log files, and diagnostic, crash, website, and performance logs and reports.

Transactional Information: If a user pays for any associated services, "we may receive information and confirmations, such as payment receipts, including from app stores or other third parties processing your payment," according to WhatsApp.

Device and Connection Information: Device-specific information when a user installs, accesses, or use the services is collected.

This includes information such as hardware model, operating system information, browser information, IP address, mobile network information including phone number, and device identifiers.

Device location information is also collected if a user opts to use  location features, such as to share location with contacts, view locations nearby or those others have shared with the user. The information is also used for  diagnostics and troubleshooting purposes.

Cookies: These enable WhatsApp to improve the users' experiences, understand how the services are being used, and to customise them.

"For example, we use cookies to provide WhatsApp for web and desktop and other web-based services. We may also use cookies to understand which of our FAQs are most popular and to show you relevant content related to our Services. Additionally, we may use cookies to remember your choices, such as your language preferences, and otherwise to customize our Services for you."

Status Information: "We collect information about your online and status message changes on our Services, such as whether you are online (your “online status”), when you last used our Services (your “last seen status”), and when you last updated your status message," according to WhatsApp.