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Review: WhatsApp good for activists?

Popular but not privacy-friendly
Last update: Jan 17, 2021

This app is very popular and simple to use. While it is owned by Facebook and some improvements are possible, WhatsApp provides quite decent security and privacy compared to the alternatives. If you need more privacy, go for Signal. WhatsApp is blocked in China.

TL;DR: While WhatsApp is very popular, it is not the most privacy-friendly. Also make sure to check out the reviews of other chat-apps.


WhatApp is the most popular chat app worldwide. It is leading in Africa, South America and in parts of Europe and Asia. WhatsApp is blocked in China.

Monthly active users2 billion


WhatsApp is a mobile app, but it can also be accessed on your desktop via their web application while your phone is online. Group chats can contain up to 265 people. Non-admin group chat members can be restricted from sending messages, so that important announcements do not disappear in an overload of messages.

It is also possible to broadcast to up 256 people. Using this functionality, a single phone sends out messages to a large group of individuals at the same time. This means that you will have to own a device which can be used as 'organisation phone'. With broadcasts, the recipients cannot see each other's phone numbers, which is useful if you do not want to disclose the identity of your fellow activists (unless someone gets hold of the sender's phone of course).

Max size255
Broadcast messagesyes ✅
Restrict who can add membersyes ✅
Restrict who can edit group infoyes ✅
Restrict who can send messagesyes ✅
Mentioning specific peopleyes ✅
Inline commentsyes ✅
Disappearing messagesno ☹️
PlatformsAndroid, iOS, Windows, macOS, web version

Security and privacy

The good part is that this app uses end-to-end encryption for the content of messages, which means that only you and your recipient(s) can read your messages. The encryption protocol was built in collaboration with the developers of Signal.

The not-so-good part is that the app is owned by Facebook. Data collected is shared with the company and used for advertising purposes. Metadata, such as with whom you talk and when, are stored on their web servers. Regarding this chat app's trustworthiness: Facebook has a horrendous track-record when it comes to privacy. The app is not open source. In other words, developers who do not work at Facebook do not get the chance to scrutinise its privacy and security practices.

Open sourceno ☹️
End-to-end encryptionyes ✅
Collection of personal informationlots☹️
(phone number, location, contacts, purchases, diagnostics, financial info, user content, usage data)
Collection of metadatayes ☹️
Trustworthy ownerno ☹️

Price and revenue model

WhatsApp is free to use. Facebook makes money by selling 'personalised' advertisements. Because the company has a lot of information about you, they can target their advertisements better and sell them at a higher price. In other words: you are the product they are selling. Facebook is also trying out new models of revenue by asking businesses to pay for additional features.

Sells personal datano ✅
Sells personalised adsyes ☹️
Is a nonprofitno ☹️


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