WhatsApp, the popular mobile communication app owned by Meta Platforms (formerly Facebook), has recently come under scrutiny by users for cyberstalking concerns. If you’re wondering to what extent someone can stalk you on WhatsApp, the answer depends on a number of settings available to users in WhatsApp. This post will look at what sort of information other users have access to on WhatsApp, and what issues WhatsApp has had with privacy and cyberstalking in the past.
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Is Stalking on WhatsApp a Crime?
Cyberstalking that consists of making an actionable threat in any capacity is a crime, whether it occurs on WhatsApp or a different messaging platform makes no difference. Check out this post to learn more about the criteria for cyberstalking as a crime. In recent times WhatsApp has been party to a more benign form of stalking, with certain people using some of WhatsApp features to look into infidelity in their partners.
Can Someone Stalk You on WhatsApp?
Since its inception, WhatsApp has always been at risk for reports of cyberstalking. In fact, the original concept of the app was to provide dynamic information about other people in a user’s contacts. Checking friends’ battery life, where they were, and if they were on a call, were all pieces of data the app was originally intended to share with friends. Later, the app evolved into a messaging platform as founder Jan Koum noticed a new feature was being exploited by users for peer-to-peer messaging.
A cybersecurity firm known as Traced recently released a news report that revealed flaws with the way WhatsApp handled user statuses and online activity. The report illuminated how a redacted company was profiting off of the ‘Last Seen’ and ‘Online’ markers of a WhatsApp account and demonstrated that there was no way for users to prevent this data from being obtained by the company.
Traced pointed out that third-party apps were able to access the online status of WhatsApp users, even if the users had set Last Seen to ‘Nobody’ in their privacy settings. Since the software only interacts with a stalker’s phone, it does not fall under the federal definition of cyberstalking, either. As of the time of this article, there is no setting within WhatsApp that can prevent the access of online status to third-party apps.
How To Know If Someone Is Stalking You On WhatsApp?
It is never possible to be 100% sure that someone isn’t using this sort of information to track your movements on WhatsApp. The exploited loophole discussed by Traced can only be utilized by users who have access to your phone number. There are a number of other steps people can take to eliminate the likelihood of cyberstalking on WhatsApp:
- Check your phone for any suspicious apps – if you’re concerned that someone may have installed spyware on your phone without your knowledge, check through your installations and make sure you don’t see anything you don’t recognize that could be reporting your data to a stalker.
- Block any contacts sending unwanted messages – if you’re getting harassed on WhatsApp by a known or unknown person, blocking and reporting this account is an important step for holding them accountable for their actions.
- Update privacy settings in WhatsApp – while WhatsApp does have a security bug that is being exploited, you can still update your privacy settings to prevent the average user from seeing your online status.
- Eliminate the use of WhatsApp entirely if privacy is of great concern – until WhatsApp decides to resolve this issue, if the fact that third-party apps may harvest your online status is a dealbreaker then we recommend finding an app without this bug to chat on.
Being stalked on WhatsApp is a frightening experience that no one should have to go through. If you are being stalked, the best thing you can do is to reach out for help. There are people who specialize in this kind of thing and they can help you make sure that you are safe. Don’t try to handle it on your own, reach out for help and let the professionals take care of it. Speak to one of our specialists now.
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