6 mistakes everyone makes with WhatsApp

Don't risk your privacy and control

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

WhatsApp is a fantastic communications app that is used by billions of people all around the world, but you'd be surprised by just how many people don't realise that how they're using it could be compromising their privacy, control or enjoyment of it.

Which is crazy really as many have spent hundreds if not thousands of pounds on one of the best iPhones or best Android phones, only to then expose themselves to needless risk as well as not make use of some of the great, game-changing features that are available to them.

As such, here we list the 6 most common mistakes we see people making when using WhatsApp – so check the list and make sure you're not making them.

1. Never turning off automatic media downloads

As default, WhatsApp will automatically download any media posted in chats to your device's image gallery. Not only does this eat away continuously at your phone's storage levels but it also completely sabotages your image gallery and any connected cloud-based storage library like Google Photos. It's one thing to have a few images sent to you then manually saved as you actually want to keep them, but it's another thing to have your gallery literally bombed with every piece of media anyone posts in a chat, no matter how mundane or irrelevant, without you permitting it. Want 57 images of a WhatsApp contact's under renovation kitchen stored on your phone? Turn off automatic media downloads in WhatsApp's setting menu now.

2. Letting any old person see your personal information

This is an absolutely critical mistake in our eyes that a lot of people do – they have their last seen, profile photo, about, groups, status information and even live location toggled to be visible/accessible to 'everyone'. This literally means what it says, with everyone no matter how tangential to you being given full access to your most personal information on WhatsApp. What you look like, what you're doing, when you were last active, where you actually are and more is now accessible to Joe Random, even if you don't know who they are. Worse still, if you leave the groups setting switched to 'everyone', too, then anyone can add you to any group without your permission. We advise showing info like this only to 'my contacts' or 'nobody' to preserve your privacy and control.

3. Not making use of WhatsApp's biometric security

Did you know that WhatsApp has biometric fingerprint security built in? Yes, we thought so. So many people we talk to here at T3 have no idea that it's an option for them, which is a shame as the vast majority of modern smartphones have fingerprint readers built in and it can add a lovely extra level of security to your private WhatsApp messages. As, with no security turned on, anyone can pick up your phone while you're not looking and rifle through your messages, contacts, pictures and audio recordings. Turning on 'unlock with fingerprint' is a simple toggle option in WhatsApp's settings menu, so make sure you toggle it now.

4. Not enabling WhatsApp's default message timer

Another great WhatsApp feature designed to increase your privacy is 'default message timer', which is a feature that a surprisingly few amount of people make use of. That's a mistake as default message timer lets you select a time period for your chat histories to be deleted, with 24 hours, 7 days, and 90 days selectable. This means that old, dated messages that are no longer relevant can be scrubbed to protect your privacy. We think the 24 hours one is a bit much to be honest, as sometimes it is useful to recall what was said in a chat, but a week or 90-day delete seems smart.

5. Sharing photos in sub-optimal quality

Ever sent or received images in WhatsApp only to open them up on your computer or try to print them off only to realise their quality seems low? The problem is your WhatsApp photo upload quality is likely set to 'auto' or 'data saver'. These modes reduce the quality of each uploaded image, which is fine if you're just sharing quick snaps that are only going to be viewed in a WhatsApp chat and then never again, but if you want to share high-quality images with friends and family on WhatsApp so they can print them off then make sure this setting is toggled to 'best quality'. More data will of course be used in the upload but at least the image quality will be maintained.

6. Not turning on two-factor authentication

Lastly, WhatsApp has two-factor authentication built in and, once enabled, this adds a huge extra barrier to hackers trying to hack into your account. Yes, two-factor authentication means it takes fractionally longer to log in to WhatsApp each time, but it could be the difference between you using the app risk free and having your name, address, appearance and family details exposed to hackers. Turn it on now.

Robert Jones

Rob has been writing about computing, gaming, mobile, home entertainment technology, toys (specifically Lego and board games), smart home and more for over 15 years. As the editor of PC Gamer, and former Deputy Editor for T3.com, you can find Rob's work in magazines, bookazines and online, as well as on podcasts and videos, too. Outside of his work Rob is passionate about motorbikes, skiing/snowboarding and team sports, with football and cricket his two favourites.