WhatsApp does not really 'delete' chats, even after you hit delete, says iOS expert

A recent report hints that WhatsApp retains and stores chat logs, even after you have hit delete on these chats or archived them.


WhatsApp impressed everyone when it announced that it would enable end-to-end encryption on its app thereby making it impossible for a third party to snoop on your chats. But a recent report hints that WhatsApp retains and stores chat logs, even after you have hit delete on these chats or archived them.

According to iOS expert, Jonathan Zdziarski, "It looks like the latest version of the app tested leaves forensic trace of all of your chats, even after you’ve deleted, cleared, or archived them… even if you “Clear All Chats”. In fact, the only way to get rid of them appears to be to delete the app entirely."

Stored chat logs even after you have deleted the chats, creates a potential information goldmine which could be misused by anyone having access to the device. According to Zdziarski, this data can also be recovered via any remote backup system in place.

As long as the data isn't overwritten, it will still be recoverable using forensic tools says the blog. Zdziarski has attributed the problem to the SQLite library used in coding the app which dosen't overwrite deleted data by default.

According to Zdziarski, backed up WhatsApp messages also pose an issue. For instance, the WhatsApp chat that is copied from the iPhone during backup can show up on iCloud backup as well as in desktop backup. While the desktop backup can be encrypted, iCloud backups do not honour this encryption which can allow law enforcement agencies to access your deleted WhatsApp database.

Zdziarski says that WhatsApp users shouldn't panic about this, but be aware of this flaw on WhatsApp. Some of the tips he's given for mitigating the issue include disabling iCloud backup of WhatsApp messages, periodically deleting the application from your devices and reinstalling it to flush out the database.


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