WhatsApp is owned by Facebook and this piece of news should not freak you out. A smartphone app called Chatwatch has been found with capabilities to let others snoop on your WhatsApp availability and whether you have read the texts, even if you have turned off the read scripts and last seen status. The app essentially takes advantage of the public online/offline status feature to dig deep into your presence on the app. Also Read - WhatsApp beta for iOS reveals changes, here's what users might getAlso Read - How to temporarily deactivate/permanently delete WhatsApp account
We all use WhatsApp, more than we use the smartphone for anything else. With global users on the platform, it is critical so safeguard the privacy. Given that it is a private messaging app, the need for secure communication is all the more needed. However, the said app allows people in your contact list to know when you are available to chat, whether you have read their texts, and scarily enough, can also estimate the time you go to sleep and wake up each day. Also Read - WhatsApp COVID-19 relief efforts: How you can get resources during the pandemic
How the app works
The app leverages the public online/offline status feature that tells your friends about your availability on the app for chat. Using this data, Chatwatch is able to tell you how often your friend checks WhatsApp and based on the activity, estimate the time they go to sleep and wake up each day.
A report on The Next Web says that the app can gain access even if you have disabled the Last Seen feature from the account settings. The app generally requires 24 hours before it can generate certain insights. Folks at the publication who got their hands on the app discovered that it was possible to find out if a WhatsApp user is online or not simply by initiating a conversation with them, where no messages need to be exchanged for this to work. This suggests that the app’s system is automating the process of checking on users and aggregating the data to provide insights.
So much snooping comes at a price. The minimum subscription fee of the app is $2 or Rs 130, which allows you to snoop on any two numbers for a week. You pay more, you get to snoop on up to 10 people.
Watch: WhatsApp features in 2017
Gladly, the app is removed from the App Store at the time of writing. However, it continues to run on the Google Play Store. The report arrives at a time when Facebook is facing worldwide criticism for allowing data firm Cambridge Analytica access to 50 billion users’ private data for building tools to allegedly influence elections.