It Seems That WhatsApp Keeps Deleted Messages On Your Phone

WhatsApp is the most popular (along Facebook Messenger) chat app today, having more than 1 billion users worldwide. In other words, Facebook owns both biggest chat apps of today. With great power comes great responsibility, but it seems that WhatsApp keeps messages from being deleted, even if user think they are gone.


A recent research conducted by iOS expert, Jonathan Zdziarski, revealed that chat logs stay on your phone even after you delete messages. It seems that traces of chats stay on the phone, and while this isn’t something to worry about in most cases, it means that someone who has a physical access to your phone can find every chat you had, ever. In other words, if an order is placed, for instance by a court order, your chats will be found and if you chatted about something that could be regarded as unlawful, you’re done.

Jonathan wrote on his blog, “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.”

So, the data is kept in SQLite library, and while data is deleted from the app, it is still present on the phone. IS there a solution? Well, there is, but you probably not going to like it, since it is a pretty extreme way of deleting chat threads for good. As Zdzidarski stated, “The only way to get rid of them appears to be to delete the app entirely.”

Even if WhatsApp introduced end-to-end encryption recently, showing its users that their data is safe and that they don’t need to worry about their privacy being violated, but this problem showed that the app still isn’t perfect, we hope that developers will do something about this problem. Until that happens, Zdziarski shared some advice that should keep your data from being hacked, you can read them below.

  • Use iTunes to set a long, complex backup password for your phone. Do NOT store this password in the keychain, otherwise it could potentially be recovered using Mac forensics tools. This will cause the phone to encrypt all desktop backups coming out of it, even if it’s talking to a forensics tool.
  • Consider pair locking your device using Configurator. I’ve written up a howto for this; it will prevent anybody else who steals your passcode, or compels a fingerprint from being able to pair or use forensics tools with your phone. This is irreversible without restoring the phone, so you’ll need to be aware of the risks.
  • Disable iCloud backups, as these do not honor your backup password, and the clear text database can be obtained, with a warrant, by law enforcement.
  • Periodically, delete the application from your device and reinstall it to flush out the database. This appears to be the only way to flush out deleted records and start fresh.
  • NOTE: This will not delete databases from existing iCloud backups from the cloud.

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