WhatsApp is about as safe as other communication apps of its kind, and a bit safer than most social networks. It doesn't ask for (or store) personal information beyond your user name, profile picture, and phone number. It also only uses contacts who you already know or personally approve of, in order to limit spam.
WhatsApp also forbids behaviour or content that is illegal, obscene, threatening, intentionally offensive, or simply meant to harass other users. That's not to say, however, that these kinds of things make it onto WhatsApp in rare circumstances. With that in mind, here are a few tips for using WhatsApp safely.
Through your privacy settings on WhatsApp, you can control who can see each of three pieces of information about you on WhatsApp: your profile picture, your personal status message, and when you last used WhatsApp (if you're offline). If you choose "Everyone", all WhatsApp users can see that piece of information. If you choose "My Contacts", only people whom you have added as WhatsApp contacts can see that information. Choosing "Nobody" prevents anyone from seeing that information, whether they are your contacts or not. Note, however, that you cannot choose to appear offline if you are currently online with WhatsApp.
In addition, WhatsApp has a function called "read receipts" that sends you a notification when someone reads a message that you sent them and vice-versa. You can turn this on or off as you choose, though it only applies to personal conversations and not group ones (see our WhatsApp Groups tutorial).
See our WhatsApp Privacy and Account Settings article to learn how to adjust these settings.
If a user on WhatsApp is bothering you, then you can block them. When you block a user, they will not be able to see any changes to your profile picture, personal status message, or online status (including when you last used WhatsApp). They will also be unable to call or message you, and vice-versa.
To learn how to block or unblock a WhatsApp user, see our How to Use WhatsApp tutorial.
Our number one rule to remember when using a social network or any other sort of communication tool is to be careful about what you share with other people. The reason for this is that once you do share content with others, you are often no longer in control of it. This holds true for WhatsApp.
WhatsApp itself does not store any content that you share over it. However, the people whom you send that content to can store it, and even share it with their contacts. So before you send a text message, picture, video, audio message, or current location indicator to someone, ask yourself if you would be okay with potentially letting other people whom that person knows see it.
If you see something or someone on WhatsApp breaking the rules, you can report the offending content or person. Just go into your settings, tap Help, and then tap Contact Us. You can then explain what the problem is, and add screenshots as evidence.
Though it's certainly very rare, it may happen that you run into a situation on WhatsApp where someone repeatedly issues credible threats to harm you, themselves, or someone else. If you ever feel that you or someone else is in immediate danger, call the local police, emergency services, suicide prevention hotline... whatever authorities are best equipped to handle the situation at hand.
WhatsApp is fairly secure. It encrypts content sent between users' phones, and does not store any information about you or your contacts besides your phone numbers (which it requires in order to work). However, WhatsApp has no password locks for accounts, so be careful whom you allow to use your phone.
That's some need-to-know information about safety and security on WhatsApp!
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