How to keep WhatsApp notifications private

Protect your message alerts with two simple steps

Reading Forbes' suggestion list to protect your privacy came to my mind one of the most useful recommendations for iPhone users addicted to WhatsApp. Spending the day messaging your friends inevitably turns into an annoying party of vibration and alerts. I don't mind the vibration alerts when the phone is in my pocket . However, the notifications that stay on the lock screen can be revealing and compromising to anyone who looks at your phone even when it's locked. There must be a way to disable notifications on WhatsApp.

Before you start tweaking the setting directly on WhatsApp, there's something you need to do first. Navigate to the main Settings app on your iPhone — the grey one with the three cogs. Depending on the version of iOS you have installed, a menu called notification will appear either as the third option or the seventh. The bright red circle on a black background is quite recognisable anyway.

Disable push notifications in Settings

Once you are on Settings>Notifications you can control the behaviour of the apps that are asking permission to access your iPhone's native notifications. This comprise three different things: Notification Center, Alerts and Lock Screen. Notification Center is the page with linen background containing recent alerts and widgets such as the weather every time you swipe down from the top of the iPhone display. You can choose the amount of items to be included, remembering you'll need to clear this regularly.

Alerts allows you to change the alert style you prefer. These can be a banner that will disappear after some seconds or a more traditional SMS type alert. If you keep scrolling down you'll find very useful options: wether you like to like WhatsApp to display a badge and the number of unread messages, play sounds for every message and more importantly, display the notifications on the lock screen. Regardless of the type of alert you choose or if your iPhone is password-protected, switching off this means the messages won't appear on the lock screen.

Tweak the options within WhatsApp

Once you have tinkered with the main Settings app, you can fine-tune WhatsApp's behaviour within the app itself. I know this can be confusing, that's why I'm recommending you begin with Settings>Notifications before doing anything else.

To begin with, simply launch WhatsApp and tap the cog icon on the bottom right of the screen. This is open the settings page on WhatsApp. Tap on the sixth option in this menu called 'Notifications'. Within this menu you can choose the behaviour of individual and group messages as well as how the notifications behave when you're using the app — what happens when someone messages you when you're typing a message, for example.

The key element for keeping your messages private is right at the bottom in a section called Show preview. Disabling this will prevent Whatsapp from displaying the content of the message . If a friend writes you on Whatsapp with Show preview disabled you will only get the name of the person.

Finding the combination that works for you

Now that you know everything about WhatsApp notifications, you should be able to change some of the settings and adapt it to your needs. I've settled for a minimalist notification scheme where I don't get any alert but I know there are new messages waiting thanks to the notification badge. This has worked for me as I avoid getting distracted and protect those private messages from strangers' eyes.

Top image by j l t