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Viral Social Media Message Alleging WhatsApp Had Secretly Changed User’s Privacy Settings: Misleading but Needs Attention

Viral Social Media Message Alleging WhatsApp Had Secretly Changed User’s Privacy Settings: Misleading but Needs Attention

Various social media platforms, including Facebook, is flooded with a viral message that WhatsApp had secretly changed its user's privacy setting. 

The viral message alleges that WhatsApp has recently changed the choice of a privacy setting, relating to groups, of every user to 'everyone'. A change that will allow anyone on the platform to add any user to WhatsApp groups without consent.

One of the messages reads:

“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 setting as follows: 1. Go to WhatsApp; 2. Go to settings; 3. Go to Accounts; 4. Go to Privacy; 5. Go to Groups; 6. Change from (Everyone) to (My Contacts). This is true. I have checked mine and all settings had been changed to everyone instead of my contacts.”

Several cybersecurity experts have confirmed that there were no recent or secret changes to the Group Privacy settings on WhatsApp. But the experts pointed out that the choice 'Everyone' was a default setting ever since when WhatsApp introduced the privacy setting back in 2019. The information about the default option is reported to have been mentioned in the official blog of the messaging platform.

The experts also opined that most users' privacy setting would be in the default setting of 'Everyone' unless they were changed earlier. So, most users who check their privacy setting prompted by the viral message may end up thinking that WhatsApp indeed altered the setting.

 It is also reported that WhatsApp has confirmed that there was no secret change in the setting and that the default was set at the time of introducing the settings.

However, cybersecurity experts urge WhatsApp users to change their privacy settings to 'My contacts' to protect themselves from unscrupulous individuals and groups on the messaging platform. This change of settings can be done by going to 'Settings'>>'Accounts'>>'Privacy'>>'Groups' and changing the option from 'Everyone' to 'My contacts'. There are other privacy options also which can be changed according to the preference of the user.

A more alarming development is a new terms of service update which WhatsApp has released, which users are to accept to continue using the platform.

In a related development, WhatsApp has filed a petition in Delhi High Court challenging the government's new IT rules saying that the new regulations dilute user's privacy.

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