Your iPhone contacts list has phone numbers of numerous random persons a restaurant, a friend’s friend, an old acquaintance, ex-partner, distant relatives, etc. You don’t have regular conversations with them but may need to once in a blue moon. However, since their phone number is saved to your contacts, by default, they can see your WhatsApp profile picture, status (stories), last seen, and more.
For privacy and safety reasons, you might want to stop your WhatsApp profile picture, stories, and other similar personal data from showing to such contacts. In this tutorial, we’ll show you how to do that on your iPhone.
Please note that these tips also apply to WhatsApp on Android as well as the WA Business app.
Levels of control you have for WhatsApp privacy
By default, your WhatsApp profile picture, status, etc., are shown to all your contacts.
But WhatsApp offers the following controls to customize your privacy:
Anyone can see that thing. For example, if your Profile Photo is set to Everyone, any person, even if you don’t have their phone number saved on your iPhone, can see your display picture (DP). This is the least private option, as it basically offers no privacy.
If you choose this, all the people saved on your iPhone contact list can see that specific WhatsApp thing (DP, status, etc.).
My Contacts Except…
This option is perfect, as it allows you to show your profile picture, status, etc., to everyone in your contact list except some people you choose to exclude. I use it because it gives me the precise control to leave out some people who are in my contacts from seeing my WhatsApp profile photos, status, etc.
Only Share With
It’s exclusively available for WhatsApp status (story) settings. With this, you can choose to share your story with just a few selected contacts. Only Share With is an excellent privacy choice, like the above-mentioned “My Contacts Except” option.
Finally, if you want to stay fully private, you can set your privacy options to Nobody. As evident from the name, it prevents your profile picture, status, etc., from being visible to anyone, including people saved to your contacts.
Now that you know about the various levels of control, here’s how to use them.
How to change your WhatsApp privacy settings
1) Open the WhatsApp app and tap Settings.
2) Pick Account.
3) Hit Privacy.
You have several options here:
Last Seen and Online
When you’re online on WhatsApp, a small online text appears below your name on the other person’s phone. This is only visible when someone has opened your WhatsApp chat screen or a past conversation. Unlike Facebook, Messenger, and other social platforms, WhatsApp doesn’t list all online contacts in one place nor does it show a green dot or anything like that. As mentioned, someone can find out if you’re online on WhatsApp only if they open the chat with you.
Similarly, when you aren’t online, the app shows the time you were last seen online on WhatsApp.
If you think the last seen time and the online status compromise your privacy, you can stop it from showing to everyone. Tap Last Seen & Online and pick an appropriate privacy level. I have set my last seen to Nobody and my online status to Everyone.
Just like other chat apps such as iMessage, WhatsApp allows you to add a profile picture, also commonly known as DP (or display picture). Due to an ever-increasing number of stalking, frauds, identity theft, and such, I recommend never setting your profile picture to be visible to everyone. Of course, this may not apply if you’re a public figure or using WhatsApp Business for your work.
To change who can see your WhatsApp profile picture, tap Profile Photo and pick an option. I have set it to My Contacts. But you can also choose My Contacts Except and exclude a few people from the list.
About is a small text field that appears below your profile photo and phone number when a person goes to your WhatsApp profile or the Contact Info screen inside WhatsApp.
The About section of WhatsApp is limited to ~139 characters, and you can use text or emojis here.
The default WhatsApp About text for all users is the infamous “Hey there! I am using WhatsApp.” You can change it to anything else from WhatsApp Settings > your name from the top > About.
If you don’t want strangers to see your About section, pick My Contacts, or one of the other options. My About text is “Please don’t call me without sending me a WhatsApp message first.” Therefore, I have configured my About visibility to Everyone.
Like Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and others, you can also add statuses or stories on your WhatsApp profile. These are only visible for 24 hours, and after that, they are deleted automatically.
You can’t share your WhatsApp Status with everyone but only your contacts. Once you tap Status, pick My Contacts, My Contacts Except, or Only Share With. I use Only Share With and have selected just a few family members who can see my WhatsApp stories.
Prevent others from adding you to WhatsApp groups
Earlier, anyone who had your number could add you to random WhatsApp groups. This was problematic, and a big privacy risk as other members of that group (whom you never knew) could see your phone number.
Thankfully, you can tap Groups on the WhatsApp Privacy Settings and limit yourself from being added to groups by selecting My Contacts or My Contacts Except.
Earlier, you could also choose Nobody (like I had done), but now WhatsApp doesn’t support it. So, to ensure no one can add you to WhatsApp groups, tap My Contacts Except and add all contacts to the exception list. This isn’t ideal, but it works.
Stop people from knowing you read their WhatsApp message
By default, when you read someone’s message, the double tick becomes blue and lets the other side know that you saw their message. This is similar to Read Receipts in iMessage. If you don’t want to let people know you saw their message, go to WhatsApp Settings > Account > Privacy and turn off Read Receipts.
Note that after you turn off Read Receipts, you also can’t know if someone else read your message.
Pro tip: Do you keep Read Receipts enabled but want to read someone’s message without turning the double tick blue? Tap & hold (don’t tap it) the chat or WhatsApp notification on your iPhone, and it’ll pop up, letting you see the message (image below). After you finish reading, tap outside the pop-up to close it. Note that Read Receipt will be sent if you go inside to see the chat in full screen.
By now, you know how to tweak the WhatsApp privacy settings on your iPhone to protect your profile picture, stories, last seen, and online status. I hope this tutorial was helpful.
Other useful WhatsApp tips: