An urgent new warning has gone viral on social media today, urging you to check your privacy settings after WhatsApp’s reportedly secret update. So should you be alarmed? What’s the truth behind this latest warning?
WhatsApp can’t escape the headlines this month. Just days after its controversial update to facilitate data sharing with Facebook, social media is ablaze with messages suggesting the platform has suddenly updated your group privacy settings and you need to urgently change them back.
So, what’s going on. The message you may have received, most likely on Facebook, will run something like this:
“WhatsApp has changed its group settings to include ‘everyone’ by default so people you don’t know can add you to a group without your knowing. These people may include scam messages, loan Sharks, etc. You can change its default settings as follows: 1. Go to WhatsApp: 2. Go into Settings 3. Go to Account 4. Go to Privacy 5. Go to Groups 6. Change from (Everyone) to (My Contacts) This is true. I have checked mine & all settings had been changed to everyone instead of my contacts.”
You will then go and check your WhatsApp settings and find that you do indeed have this “everyone” setting. But before you get too alarmed, this was almost certainly always the case. It’s a default, and has been since WhatsApp introduced the setting back in 2019, announcing this in its blog. The reality is, that this “dangerous” setting update has likely been on your phone since 2019.
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. If you had already changed it and find that it’s changed back, please let me know. We haven’t seen that thus far.
This is just one of the critical privacy and settings you should change in WhatsApp. You can find full details of how to make your app as safe as possible here.
Meanwhile, the much more significant change is the terms of service update. If you haven’t accepted the new terms, then pretty soon your account will be restricted, and a “short time” later you will not be able to call or message. That’s the really important WhatsApp news this month—but worth checking those privacy settings anyway.
WhatsApp confirmed to me that the viral warnings are indeed two-years out of date, telling me “there has been no change to our settings… In 2019 we added new controls for those who wanted to set limits on who could add them to groups.”