With more than 2 billion users, WhatsApp Messenger is the most popular chat app in the world.
A study published in the latest Social Media Landscape report by World Wide Worx and Ornico showed that over 93% of Internet users in South Africa between the ages of 16 and 64 use WhatsApp.
WhatsApp’s nearest rival in the mobile instant messaging space in South Africa is Telegram.
Despite the backlash against WhatsApp’s ultimatum, the app remains popular.
Here are six important settings you should consider changing for a safer and more efficient WhatsApp experience.
Turn on Screen Lock
WhatsApp’s biometric authentication feature allows you to automatically lock the app after a set time or immediately after exiting.
You can then unlock it again using your fingerprint or facial recognition.
This can prevent unscrupulous bystanders from snooping through your messages.
To enable this feature, select the three-dot menu in the top right of your screen on your main WhatsApp interface and then choose Settings.
From here, select the “Account” section and then hit “Privacy”.
Scroll to the bottom, where you will find the biometric unlocking options.
Android users will only be able to choose “Fingerprint unlock”, while iOS users on compatible Face ID iPhones will also have a facial recognition option.
You can then set the app to lock after 1 minute or 30 minutes of inactivity or immediately after exiting.
Silence Group spam
If you are a member of multiple groups, you will know what it feels like to be distracted by numerous message notifications every day.
WhatsApp users can mute individual groups that spam your notification feed with useless information.
To do this, open the group for which you want to mute notifications and select the three-dot menu at the top right of the screen.
In the drop-down menu, choose “Mute notifications”.
You can then choose to stop receiving notifications for new messages on the group for either 8 hours, 1 week, or always.
You can also control who gets to add you onto groups under the “Privacy” tab of the main Settings page.
This will allow you to choose if all WhatsApp users, all your phone contacts, or only certain contacts can add you to a group.
Turn on two-factor authentication
Like many apps and online services which have improved their account protection features, WhatsApp boasts a two-factor authentication (2FA) setting.
When turned on, you will be requested to create a PIN which you must enter if you install WhatsApp on another device.
You also have to provide an email address that can be used to reset the PIN if you forget it.
To turn 2FA on, select the “Two-step verification” option under the “Account” section of the Settings page.
The “Security notification”s feature can help you pick up on hacked accounts among your WhatsApp contacts by notifying you when one of them recently had their security code changed.
WhatsApp uses 60-digit security codes, which are also presented as QR codes, as unique identifiers for each chat on the platform.
The security code will change when a WhatsApp user reinstalls the app or changes devices.
If you start receiving weird messages from your rich lawyer friend who suddenly begs you for money and their security code recently changed, it could indicate that they have been the victim of a SIM swap attack or some other account compromise.
Keep it secret, keep it safe
If you want to limit what other users outside of your contacts can see about your profile or activity on WhatsApp, you should change a few options under the Privacy section in Settings.
You can change the following details on your profile to be shown to everyone, your contacts, or nobody:
- Last seen – When you were last recorded as active on WhatsApp.
- Profile photo – Current picture shown on your profile
- About – Any details you have added under your About section.
- Status – Your latest status update.
Another setting you will find under Privacy is “Read receipts”. These are the blue ticks you see whenever someone has read your message.
Turning this off will mean other users won’t be able to see when you have read a message while at the same time disabling your ability to see whether they have read your messages.
Read receipts for group chats cannot be turned off, however.
Cut down on clutter and save data
If you are short on storage or your mobile data is precious, WhatsApp allows you to prevent media downloads from happening automatically.
Navigate to the “Storage and data” section of the Settings page to change the media auto-download settings.
You can then choose to allow automatic media downloads on Wi-Fi, Mobile Data, or while Roaming.
Deselecting all of these will allow you to only download media received from contacts manually.
Another setting that can help minimise your WhatsApp data usage is “Use less data for calls”, which can also be toggled under the “Storage and data” section.
This mode will save your data at the expense of call quality.
In addition, the Manage storage functionality enables you to review and delete items that were forwarded and saved multiple times or those which take up more than 5MB of space.