What is WhatsApp?
WhatsApp is a messaging app that allows users to send text-based messages as well as images and videos. The service also allows for audio and video calls.
The app is enormously popular, with hundreds of millions of users worldwide. WhatsApp is regularly ranked among the top five most downloaded smartphone applications, along with other Meta-owned platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
So how safe is WhatsApp? One of its key features is end-to-end encryption. Put simply, a message or call from one WhatsApp user to another is entirely protected by encryption, allowing users to maintain a high level of privacy, at least in terms of the contents of their communication.
While communications on WhatsApp are encrypted, the app gathers a lot of information about its users and their habits. This became a subject of contention after Apple’s App Store placed a privacy warning on WhatsApp, flagging up its data-gathering practices.
Soon afterward, WhatsApp added to growing discontent amongst its privacy-focused users by trying to force through a new user privacy agreement and threatening to remove essential app features from users who didn’t agree to it.
Ultimately, the biggest mark against WhatsApp from a privacy standpoint is the fact that it’s owned by Meta, Facebook’s parent company and one of the most data-hungry corporations in the tech space. For many, that association alone is enough to make them want to delete their WhatsApp accounts.
How to delete WhatsApp: step by step
- Open the WhatsApp application.
- Tap “More Options” and select “Settings”.
- Tap Account and select “Delete my account”.
- Type in your phone number (using full international format).
- Tap “DELETE MY ACCOUNT” and select the reason for your decision to do so.
- Tap “DELETE MY ACCOUNT” and complete the process.
So what happens when you delete WhatsApp? Once you’ve followed these steps, your account will be deactivated, though it may take up to 90 days for all your data to be purged.
According to WhatsApp’s website, it won’t remove all information about your account from its logs, but it will scrub data that links that information to you personally. In practical terms, it will have no data specifically related to you or to your now deleted account.
Can you recover your account after deleting it?
No, you cannot recover your account after deletion. Once you delete your WhatsApp account, your profile will be inaccessible. You won’t be able to recover or reactivate the account.
That’s why it’s important to download any data you want to keep in advance, before you go through the deletion process described above.
How to download WhatsApp data
If you want to save the photos, videos, and text messages from your WhatsApp profile, follow these steps.
- Open a WhatsApp conversation that you wish to preserve.
- Click the button that looks like three small dots, and then click More.
- Click Export Chat.
- Choose whether you want to export all media (photos, videos, etc) currently saved in the chat.
- Select where you want the exported conversation to be sent or saved.
You’ll now have a copy of the conversation, which you can store on your own drives. With this done, you can safely delete your WhatsApp profile without worrying about losing important conversations and shared media.
If you’ve deactivated your WhatsApp account but you still want to enjoy the benefits of end-to-end encryption on your messages, you may want to try an alternative.
The Telegram app has grown rapidly in popularity and is used by more than 100 million people around the world. Offering end-to-end encryption, it’s been touted as a potential rival to WhatsApp. Another strong option is Wire, and the most well-regarded and privacy-focused example is Signal, which came out top on NordVPN’s list of most secure messaging apps earlier this year.
Whatever app you end up using, it’s important to remember that none are perfect. Do your own research into any messaging service before trusting it with your data, and use it in combination with other security tools, like password managers and a VPN, for a truly secure online experience.