WhatsApp and its Broken Privacy Options


While people today love to use social networking and communication apps that work for free, there are some known risks that come with their use. Platforms like Facebook have seen an immense amount of love from users, young and old alike, over the past few years and they continue to grow every day. However, such social networks also open doors for cybercriminals and online predators into one’s private life and data. Thankfully, there are privacy options that one can use in order to keep their profile safe from prying eyes.

But recently, these ‘privacy’ options of many apps have started to get challenged. People are finding out about serious flaws regarding privacy settings, in many apps. One of the latest apps, the flaws of which have been exposed, is WhatsApp.

A Little Something about WhatsApp

WhatsApp is one of the most famous communication apps in the world today. Like many other apps of its kind, WhatsApp allows users to send each other text messages, photos and videos, voice messages, and more. The most attractive part of using this app is that all of this is free.

WhatsApp’s popularity can be seen very clearly when one takes a look at the numbers; the app had 700 million active monthly users in January of this year, who send more than 30 billion messages daily.

Special Settings for the Privacy Conscious

With WhatsApp, one can also share current status with friends, or the general public for that matter. Your profile picture can be seen by people who search for you, and they can also see how long ago you were online.

However, just like any good communication app, WhatsApp does provide options to turn all three of these features off, but it fails to completely keep its word, as it seems from a discovery made by Maikel Zweerink.

WhatsSpy Public, and WhatsApp’s Privacy Leak

Zweerink originally started working on WhatsApp, as he wanted to build a bot. The discovery he made along the way shocked him. He was able to prove that anyone with the right knowledge can find out all about one’s WhatsApp online status, regardless of what privacy settings are in play.

He has created a proof-of-concept tool called WhatsSpy Public, which can allow anyone to access your WhatsApp profile, including your photos, settings, status, and history of online presence.

Zweerink also posted instructions that you can use to set up WhatsSpy Public on Raspberry Pi, VPS, or a server. Here are the things you’ll need:

  • A second WhatsApp account
  • A rooted Android phone, a jailbroken iPhone, or knowledge of PHP
  • Nginx with PHP
  • Postgre SQL
  • A Server

So you see that it will only take someone with basic knowledge of these things to spy on your personal, seemingly ‘hidden’, information on WhatsApp. This is not a hack or a way to spy on someone’s profile but rather a part of the code on which WhatsApp is designed. What all of this means is that while you think that your profile is safe from prying eyes because you set your privacy settings to show your status and picture to ‘nobody’, it is not as safe as you think.

Be Careful of What you Share

While there may be no solution to this problem as of right now, you should still try to keep your personal data and information safe. Just with any social application or platform, your personal information is always at risk one way or the other and it won’t hurt to be a little more careful of what your share over the internet.