When you change your phone number linked to WhatsApp, can a new user access old WhatsApp messages? WhatsApp has become an integral part of our daily communication, and data privacy is a growing concern for many users. One common question that arises is whether a new user can access old messages if they start using a phone number previously associated with another WhatsApp account. In this blog post, we will explore the factors that may affect access to old messages and discuss the potential implications of such a scenario.

Backstory

In one of my whatsapp groups, one of the members asked the following question:

Needing some clarification on this….I was using WhatsApp associated with my old number in my previous company. Later when this phone number was to be given back to my old company… I erased all my whatsapp data.
Now, the same old number is being used by some one else. Can they access my old whatsapp messages since the phone numbers used earlier were same… ??

There were a couple of responses, but I put some thought into the likely scenarios. My response was as follows:

New User Access Old WhatsApp Messages

Might depend on a few factors, in my opinion. To avoid confusion, let’s use the terms “old user” and “new user” to refer to the previous and current owners of the phone number.

a. If both the old user and the new user work for the same organization and the old user was a member of an organization or department-specific WhatsApp group, let’s say the old user didn’t exit that specific group. Now, does the new user also have access to that group?

b. The old user’s contacts have not updated their contact details for the old user. They continue sending messages to the new user. Say, one day the new user responds and says, “Sorry, old messages got deleted; can you re-send me the messages from the last xx weeks?”

c. The old user has not updated their phone number with e-commerce, travel, etc., companies who bombard messages for each transaction or purchase. They also send “promotional” messages. Can the new user retrieve the old user’s purchase history? OTP / 2FA comes to the phone number that’s now with the new user.

d. The old user and the new user do not work for the same organization. But the old user did not exit certain groups. Does the new user automatically start getting new messages?

In how many of the above situations does the new user have access to the old user’s messages?

On a lighter yet scarier note, let’s say the new user decides to do some mischief. Now, how difficult is it for law enforcement, using the proper channels, to ask Meta to hand over the old user’s conversations? Will Meta hand over everything but the kitchen sink, or consider, “Until date X, the number belonged to the old user; we will only send message transcripts for the new user, which is after the cut-off date”?

Can a New User Access Old WhatsApp Messages. Blog by Amar Vyas
Same Phone number for whatsapp, but with different users..

Summing it up

Can a New User Access Old WhatsApp Messages with the Same Phone Number ?

While it is unlikely that a new user can access old messages without explicit permission or legal intervention, it is essential to be aware of the factors that may affect data privacy on WhatsApp. By understanding these factors and taking appropriate precautions, users can protect their data and maintain their privacy. Additionally, it is crucial to stay informed about the legal implications of data privacy and the role of law enforcement in accessing user data.

Parting Thoughts

I ran the above scenarios with three different AI chat tools- Gemini (formerly Google Bard), Youchat and Meta’s llama (via perplexity Labs). In each case, I clarified that my response purely dealt with hypothetical scenarios, and my intention was to convey the seriousness in a lighthearted tone. The unedited responses from gemini, Youchat and llama are posted on my feeder site.

Can a New User Access Old WhatsApp Messages
Two phones with WhatsApp.

This post was published under as a series of my posts on Technology

Categories: Technology