WhatsApp and Contacts

Assocaites want me to join their WhatsApp group. In the past I have resisted all such requests to do for two major issues. Firstly, the initial request was way back when when WhatsApp did not have end-to-end encryption indeed then all messages, including system ones, were sent as plain text! Without entering into a debate about reasons why end-to-end encrption might not be desirable (by governments) its presence now resolves this issue.

Secondly, WhatsApp (initially) insisted on having full and unfetter access to Contacts. I could not allow that as many of the people amongst my contacts are considered “Vulnerable Adults” under UK law and details were given for commerical reasons. Giving those details out would breach UK Data Protection legislation. Neither batch of numbers can leave my iPhone/iPad/Macs and certainly not be handed over to a business located in a country with weaker data privacy laws namely the US. Especially not to a company that exhibited a cavalier attitude to data privacy and protection.

However, I think I read somewhere recently that WhatsApp now have a feature to partition Contacts into those whose details can be given to them and those that cannot. Was I dreaming that? My associates are all already on WhatsApp so they have implicitly given their permission for data transfer to a weaker jurisdiction. If there is a partion feature they would be in that group with everyone else not.

I have never given WhatsApp access to my contacts. It’s mildly annoying to use because people just show up as their phone numbers. But once you’ve communicated with them, the chat history tells you who it is. It helps that I don’t have much activity in WhatsApp.

I’m sure I just refused to grant access to my contacts via the Apple dialog, and just kept going with setup.

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Same boat here, had to start using it for some people. I do not give it access to my contacts. I see a list of phone numbers, with pictures if the person has provided one.

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Can you provide details? In the recent past I was able to use WhatsApp in the same way - denying the app access to my contacts. This was with an an older iPhone and older version of IOS. I never agreed to WhatsApp’s updated terms of service introduced in the January-March 2022 time frame. Facebook/WhatsApp threatened to discontinue access to those who refused, but ultimately backed off this threat after public criticism.

After purchase of a new iPhone 14 recently and installation of the current version of WhatsApp, I have not gone past the Terms of Service page. Is it possible to get past this by “agreeing” with the TOS and subsequently denying access to contacts? Is there another work-around? I have such disdain for Meta/Facebook that I could never allow that organization access to my contacts.

Denying access to contacts would result in calls showing up as phone numbers, but this is acceptable since I use WhatsApp only to talk to a couple of Android users in Europe (I am in U.S.). I would be comfortable switching to another app such as Signal but have not been able to persuade the other parties to switch to a different app.

As I understand it, for an app to get access to your contacts, you must agree to an iOS system-level dialog – that’s why many apps show you two popups when initially requesting contact data (or location, etc.). The first dialog (from the app) usually explains why they think you should agree, then you get the actual iOS request, which is the one that matters.

(This makes good sense. Apple doesn’t want to take an app’s word for it that you’ve consented, without knowing if you have, or if the request was somehow misleading. So instead, the system makes sure to get your approval directly – Apple controls who gets access to your data, not the app writer.)

It’s also worth noting that the app only gets to request access once – if you deny access, that’s it. The app can nudge you frequently if it likes, but it doesn’t seem to be able to offer you the iOS approval dialog again. Instead, the subsequent nudges all beg for your permission and tell you how to go to Settings to make the change yourself. I am confident this is an Apple restriction, because it’s far from optimal for the apps’ owners.

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