Tuesday Jan 18 2022
Web Desk

What information does WhatsApp collect from its users?

Web Desk

— Photo courtesy WhatsApp
— Photo courtesy WhatsApp

In order to operate and provide services, the Meta-owned messaging application, WhatsApp is required to receive and collect some information about its users.

There are three types of information WhatsApp receives and collects from the users and it all depends on how the WhatsApp services are being used.

Primarily, a user must provide their mobile phone number for the account creation on the platform and use WhatsApp services.

Secondly, there are some optional features in the messaging app which require the user information only if used. Such collection of information is always notified and if a user is not willing to provide the required information, they will not be able to use a certain feature.

For example, a user cannot share their location if they don't permit the application to access the location information.

These are the ways in which WhatsApp shares information across its family of apps.

Information You Provide

Your Account Information: You must provide your mobile phone number and basic information (including a profile name of your choice) to create a WhatsApp account. If you don’t provide WhatsApp with this information, you will not be able to create an account to use WhatsApp services. You can add other information to your account, such as a profile picture and "about" information.

Your Messages: WhatsApp does not retain your messages in the ordinary course of providing its services to you. Instead, your messages are stored on your device and not typically stored on WhatsApp servers. Once your messages are delivered, they are deleted from the WhatsApp servers. The following scenarios describe circumstances where WhatsApp may store your messages in the course of delivering them:

Undelivered messages: If a message cannot be delivered immediately (for example, if the recipient is offline), WhatsApp keeps it in encrypted form on its servers for up to 30 days as it tries to deliver it. If a message is still undelivered after 30 days, it is deleted.

Media forwarding. When a user forwards media within a message, WhatsApp stores that media temporarily in encrypted form on its servers to aid in more efficient delivery of additional forwards.

End-to-end encryption: It means that your messages are encrypted to protect against WhatsApp and third parties from reading them.

Connections: You can use the contact upload feature and provide WhatsApp, if permitted by applicable laws, with the phone numbers in your address book on a regular basis, including those of users of WhatsApp services and your other contacts. If any of your contacts aren’t yet using WhatsApp services, we’ll manage this information for you in a way that ensures those contacts cannot be identified by the application. You can create, join, or get added to groups and broadcast lists, and such groups and lists get associated with your account information. You give your groups a name. You can provide a group profile picture or description.

Status information: You may provide WhatsApp your status if you choose to include one on your account.

Transactions and payments data: If you use WhatsApp payments services, or use WhatsApp services meant for purchases or other financial transactions, the company processes additional information about you, including payment account and transaction information. Payment account and transaction information includes information needed to complete the transaction (for example, information about your payment method, shipping details and transaction amount). If you use WhatsApp payments services available in your country or territory, the platform's privacy practices are described in the applicable payments privacy policy.

Customer support and other communications: When you contact WhatsApp for customer support or otherwise communicate with the company, you may also provide information related to your use of WhatsApp services, including copies of your messages, any other information you deem helpful, and how to contact you (e.g., an email address). For example, you may send us an email with information relating to app performance or other issues.

Automatically Collected Information

Usage and log information: WhatsApp collects information about your activity on the application's services, like service-related, diagnostic, and performance information. This includes information about your activity (including how you use WhatsApp services, your services settings, how you interact with others using WhatsApp services (including when you interact with a business), and the time, frequency, and duration of your activities and interactions), log files, and diagnostic, crash, website, and performance logs and reports. This also includes information about when you registered to use WhatsApp services; the features you use like WhatsApp messaging, calling, status, groups (including group name, group picture, group description), payments or business features; profile photo, "about" information; whether you are online, when you last used WhatsApp services (your "last seen"); and when you last updated your "about" information.

Device and connection information: WhatsApp collects device and connection-specific information when you install, access, or use WhatsApp services. This includes information such as hardware model, operating system information, battery level, signal strength, app version, browser information, mobile network, connection information (including phone number, mobile operator or ISP), language and time zone, IP address, device operations information, and identifiers (including identifiers unique to Facebook Company Products associated with the same device or account).

Location information: WhatsApp collects and use precise location information from your device with your permission when you choose to use location-related features, like when you decide to share your location with your contacts or view locations nearby or locations others have shared with you. There are certain settings relating to location-related information which you can find in your device settings or the in-app settings, such as location sharing. Even if you do not use WhatsApp's location-related features, the application uses IP addresses and other information like phone number area codes to estimate your general location (e.g., city and country). It also uses your location information for diagnostics and troubleshooting purposes.

Cookies: WhatsApp uses cookies to operate and provide WhatsApp services, including to provide the services that are web-based, improve your experiences, understand how WhatsApp services are being used, and customize them. For example, WhatsApp uses cookies to provide services for web and desktop and other web-based services. It may also use cookies to understand which of its Help Center articles are most popular and to show you relevant content related to WhatsApp services. Additionally, WhatsApp may use cookies to remember your choices, like your language preferences, to provide a safer experience, and otherwise to customize its services for you.

Third-Party Information

Information others provide about you: WhatsApp receives information about you from other users. For example, when other users you know use WhatsApp services, they may provide your phone number, name, and other information (like information from their mobile address book) just as you may provide theirs. They may also send you messages, send messages to groups to which you belong, or call you. WhatsApp requires each of these users to have lawful rights to collect, use, and share your information before providing any information to it.

You should keep in mind that in general any user can capture screenshots of your chats or messages or make recordings of your calls with them and send them to WhatsApp or anyone else, or post them on another platform.

User reports: Just as you can report other users, other users or third parties may also choose to report to WhatsApp your interactions and your messages with them or others on its services; for example, to report possible violations of WhatsApp Terms or policies. When a report is made, the company collects information on both the reporting user and reported user.

Businesses on WhatsApp: Businesses you interact with using WhatsApp services may provide the company with information about their interactions with you. WhatsApp requires each of these businesses to act in accordance with applicable law when providing any information to it.

When you interact with a business on WhatsApp, keep in mind that the content you share may be visible to several people in that business. In addition, some businesses might be working with third-party service providers (which may include Facebook) to help manage their communications with their customers. For example, a business may give such third-party service provider access to its communications to send, store, read, manage, or otherwise process them for the business. To understand how a business processes your information, including how it might share your information with third parties or Facebook, you should review that business’ privacy policy or contact the business directly.

Third-party service providers: WhatApp work with third-party service providers and other Facebook Companies to help WhatsApp operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support, and market its services. For example, the company works with them to distribute its apps; provide its technical and physical infrastructure, delivery, and other systems; provide engineering support, cybersecurity support, and operational support; supply location, map, and places information; process payments; help it understand how people use its services; market them; help you connect with businesses using its services; conduct surveys and research for the platform; ensure safety, security and integrity; and help with customer service. These companies may provide WhatsApp with information about you in certain circumstances; for example, app stores may provide WhatsApp with reports to help it diagnose and fix service issues.

Third-party services: The messaging app allows you to use WhatsApp services in connection with third-party services and Facebook Company Products. If you use WhatsApp services with such third-party services or Facebook Company Products, WhatsApp may receive information about you from them; for example, if you use the WhatsApp share button on a news service to share a news article with your WhatsApp contacts, groups, or broadcast lists on WhatsApp services, or if you choose to access its services through a mobile carrier’s or device provider’s promotion of the services. It is important to note that when you use third-party services or Facebook Company Products, their own terms and privacy policies will govern your use of those services and products.