Communication by WhatsApp and other messenger apps has almost completely overtaken texting. Families, classmates, and even club members are using them to organize their joint activities and exchange messages.
WhatsApp, certainly among the most popular apps of this kind in Germany, came under heavy fire from security experts when it was first launched. Since then, however, the developers have modified many things. For example, conversations and chats are now encrypted by default.
Still, when WhatsApp is in use, the provider has access to all contacts and lines of communication so that the service will function. As of May 2018, WhatsApp informs users in its FAQs that, in Germany, it shares all information – such as the phone number used to register with WhatsApp, information about the device being used, and usage information – with Facebook.
Moreover, WhatsApp is interested in analyzing metadata and is able to engage in what is known as profiling – creating user profiles.
Every user of WhatsApp should be aware of these agenda items. If a user wants to use the messenger app, they should learn a few ground rules for security while communicating with a messenger.
Tips for more secure messaging
- Disable functions like “Last Seen” or “Read Receipts” so that your own actions will not be transparent. In WhatsApp, you will find these options by going to Settings > Account > Privacy.
- Limit the visibility of your profile. You can also do this in Privacy. Others need only know your mobile number to find out more about you.
- Do not respond to spam messages. The precautionary steps to take are the same as when you receive an email from an unknown person. One click may be enough to put your privacy at risk.
- Update the app regularly. This is the only way to prevent security gaps from being abused on your smartphone.
- Use antivirus software for your smartphone. In the past, there have been attacks targeting the software of WhatsApp.
Do you know these alternatives to WhatsApp?
If you want or need to exchange confidential information with your contacts – such as information about clients – you belong to a user group with an especially acute need for security. In such cases, alternatives to the particularly popular messenger apps are available. They focus on encrypting messages, but they also do not collect data on the users. In comparisons (for example by Stiftung Warentest), the following have been particularly impressive in the past:
None of the apps is very well-known or popular. For this reason, you will need to persuade your fellow communicators to use them. But if truly important and confidential matters need to be discussed, these messengers may be even more secure than email.