According to a recent post by iOS researcher Jonathan Zdziarski, Facebook-owned popular instant messaging app WhatsApp doesn’t fully get rid the chat conversations that have been deleted by users. In a recent encryption test conducted by the developer, it was found that the latest version of WhatsApp leaves traces of deleted chats. In fact, Zdziarski went on to say that deleting the app entirely is the only option to get rid of those deleted conversations.
“To test, I installed the app and started a few different threads. I then archived some, cleared, some, and deleted some threads. I made a second backup after running the “Clear All Chats” function in WhatsApp. None of these deletion or archival options made any difference in how deleted records were preserved. In all cases, the deleted SQLite records remained intact in the database,” said Jonathan Zdziarski.
However, Zdziarski has made it clear that WhatsApp isn’t trying to preserve the data intentionally. Despite WhatsApp not being involved in any manual action, the chat records are failing to be erased from the database, leaving behind traces that can be recovered.
What Zdziarski found out is imperative considering the fact that user’s privacy’s been hugely debated as well as compromised these days. The finding equally raises serious doubts about WhatsApp’s involvement as to what happens when the data reaches phone’s local disk drive or remote iCloud storage. If these revelations aren’t shocking enough, it should be noted that authorities could soon obtain chats with the help of a court order even if messages don’t exist on phones.
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“Forensic trace is common among any application that uses SQLite, because SQLite by default does not vacuum databases on iOS (likely in an effort to prevent wear). When a record is deleted, it is simply added to a “free list”, but free records do not get overwritten until later on when the database needs the extra storage,” Zdziarski added.
While it’s true that this shouldn’t create panic among WhatsApp users beyond a certain limit, the finding has contributed significantly in order to shed some light on several promises the company has done in past and how well is it keeping up to those promises at this moment.