Category Archives: Social media

Staying private on WhatsApp

WhatsApp is great, but what if you want to keep things private?

A great new feature of WhatsApp is the ability to create photo or video messages that can only be seen just once. Create a message and add a video or photo in the caption area you’ll see a 1 in a circle. Tap this and the message can only be seen once by the recipient before disappearing or will delete if unopened for 14 days. Great for sharing passwords and other confidential stuff. Just be aware that they cab still photograph the screen, for example, to keep a copy.

Secondly, you can set a chat so that all messages will disappear after a set length of time. This doesn’t work for all group chats, where you need to be the group admin. Open the chat and press the chat name at the top. In the options below you will see ‘disappearing messages’. Turn this on and any new messages will disappear seven days after being sent.

If you are in a group chat but don’t want your comment to be seen by all the rest of the group, long-press the message and then the three dots at the top right. Choose ‘reply privately’ to open the contacts window so you can message just the message creator.

Whatsapp changes group security

After starting data-sharing with Facebook, WhatsApp has reportedly changed a setting to allow anyone to add you to a group: this might mean marketing businesses or, more worryingly, scams or loan sharks or whatever.

To change the setting on your phone so that only those in your contact list (or even fewer) can add you to groups, go to settings> account >privacy>groups and select ‘my contacts’ or ‘my contacts except’

WhatsApp on your computer

With the rise of computer-based video and audio systems, Whatsapp can be put onto your Windows or Apple computer so that you get the benefits of a bigger screen and keyboard.

Whatsapp on the computer still needs to use your phone, so make sure wifi is on to keep costs down.

Simply go to and download the appropriate program. Then run it and a QR code pops up on your screen. Go to Whatsapp on your phone, move to the home screen. Now open the menu (usually the icon with three dots) and select Whatsapp web. Point the phone camera at the QR code and everything on your phone now goes to your computer!

Private video conversations

I have a number of customers who are consultants, therapists, etc. Due to the virus outbreak, I did some looking into working over the internet with other people to stay in business.

Some of the accrediting bodies are quite rightly very cautious on customer confidentiality. This can be compromised on a number of methods that we all use. The issue is that other people can intercept the audio and video streams going past.

To prevent this, we need End to End Encryption (E2EE). Fortunately, there are several excellent open-source (free) tools. Another benefit to open-source is that the code is available to anyone to review and comment, potentially making it better than proprietary solutions who can build in secret monitoring.

Before we get to them, Skype itself claims to offer e2e as an option: select ‘new private conversation’ from the new chat menu as long as you both have versions of Skype that allow e2e, however commentators claim that there are records of the call, but not of the content of the call.

Skype’s Private Conversations is based on Signal, a rather good tool from Open Whisper Systems. Signal is even supported and trusted by the famous or infamous Edward Snowden.

With Signal, just install the software at each end (phone or PC), allow certain permissions and off you go.

Blur backgrounds in Skype

Sometimes we may wish to disguise what is behind us during a Skype call – maybe to make the bedroom that we are working in look more like an office or hide our taste in wallpaper. Maybe you just want the fashionable ’Bokeh’ effect that you can get on smartphone cameras.

Now PC versions of Skype have that capability. So Android and iOS versions are out of luck. Right-click on the video button and select ‘Blur my background’.

It’s a software effect so the good news is that it will work with all webcams, but the bad news is that some computers may not have the capability to process it.

Record Skype calls

The latest version of Skype (version 8) includes a way to record audio and video calls. I’ve used a few third party apps to do this but it is great to have one ‘baked-in’.

To use it, let the others know you are recording. Then press the ‘+’ and choose start recording. At the end, stop recording. I’ve recorded over a hour in one go.

The recording is posted in your chat and you can save it from there. One small benefit is that you can see how the other end sees you in full screen splendour!

More Facebook privacy problems

Facebook has confirmed that almost all of the 2.2 billion users of this site have had their phone numbers and email addresses stolen by scammers. This means that they have also been able to search the site to get other personal information such as names and date of birth. By adding these to spam emails they appear more genuine.

To remove your phone number (which was supposed to increase security) go to your profile page and click the arrow at the top-right, followed by settings. Under general account settings click contact and see if it is there. Now that was simple!

After the data harvesting incident, you can check whether you have been affected by visting the Facebook help page at

WhatsApp for Windows 10

Many of us are devotees of WhatsApp on pour phones and tablets. There has been a Windows program to use WhatsApp on your PC for some time Now there is a dedicated app for it from the Microsoft Store. It uses less space than the program and gets updated automatically.
Look in the store for ‘WhatsApp Desktop’ and install it. Start it up and then scan the QR code on the screen with your phone to link the two together. After that you are good to go.