Privacy fears after app’s ‘secret’ update

WhatsApp users have been urged to check their privacy settings after the platform’s reportedly “secret” update.

WhatsApp users have been urged to check their privacy settings after the platform’s reportedly “secret” update.

The Facebook-owned platform, which made headlines earlier this month after controversially updating to facilitate data sharing with its owner, has come under fire a second time, with social media users declaring it recently changed its group settings to include “everyone” by default – meaning people you don’t know can add you to a group without your knowledge.

“These people may include scam messages, loan sharks, etc,” Mobberley NW wrote on Twitter.

According to Forbes, though, it’s not a recent change – the default setting was introduced back in 2019.

“The reality is, that this ‘dangerous’ setting update has likely been on your phone since 2019,” surveillance and cybersecurity expert Zak Doffman wrote for the publication.

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“I have checked WhatsApp on an iPhone and Android device, both with the latest update, and there was no forced change to this setting.
“But, while this alert is likely misleading, you should change that setting … This is just one of the critical privacy and settings you should change in WhatsApp.”

In a statement to Forbes, WhatsApp confirmed the viral warnings on social media were two years overdue, saying: “There has been no change to our settings … In 2019 we added new controls for those who wanted to set limits on who could add them to groups.”

If you’re wanting to change the default, go to WhatsApp, then into settings. Then go to Account, then Privacy, then Groups, and change from Everyone to My Contacts.

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As for sharing data with Facebook, WhatsApp later clarified that the update would not change the end-to-end encryption of personal conversations, and only business conversations hosted with the app could be readable and used for advertising.

“Messaging with businesses is different than messaging with your family and friends [and some] large businesses need to use hosting services to manage their communication,” WhatsApp said.

The platform also declared it would “clearly label conversations with businesses that are choosing to use hosting services from Facebook”.

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