WhatsApp is allowing users to download the data it collects, in compliance with new EU data privacy rules coming into force next month. In wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the popular messaging service owned by Facebook has rolled out the new feature, ahead of the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) law that goes into effect 25 May. The Request Account Info feature is now available for Android beta users, and "will be rolling out to all users around the world on the newest version of the app," the company says.
Earlier this month, amid criticism over data abuse by Facebook, WhatsApp had reassured its users that their data and communications are secured with end-to-end encryption, nobody in between can read messages and listen to calls - not even WhatsApp itself. The company had said that it collects very little data, but speculations suggested that metadata about whom you are talking to, and how often, could still be mined.
With the 'Request your account information' feature, WhatsApp is allowing users to request and export a report of their account information and settings, such as contacts, profile photos, and groups, which can be accessed and ported to another app. The report does not include users' messages. For that, you can export the chat history to your email.
The latest WhatsApp feature is now rolling out to Android beta users. To use the feature, you need to be a WhatsApp beta tester and have the updated app (v2.18.128) installed on the smartphone. If you are looking to join the WhatsApp beta, here are the requisite steps.
Now, open the WhatsApp app and go to Settings. It is available in the three-dotted menu button at the top right corner. Once there, go to Account. Here, you will get a Request account info option. Now, tap on the Request report button. Once clicked, the screen should update to Request sent.
WhatsApp says, your report will be available roughly 3 days after the date requested. In our experience, we received it within the hour, Users can refer to the Ready by date when waiting for their report. It is worth noting that certain actions such as deleting your account, changing your number or handset, or re-registering your account, will cancel the request.
When WhatsApp is ready with your report, it will send a notification to your smartphone stating Your account info is ready to download. Also, the Request account info screen will now tell you how much time - a 1-month window - you have left to download the report, before WhatsApp deletes it from the server.
To download your report, go to Settings > Account > Request account info > Download report. This will automatically download a ZIP file in your handset. The file contains an HTML file that is easy to read and a JSON file that can be ported to another app. Once the report is downloaded, users will have to select Export report, as you will not be able to view the downloaded report within WhatsApp. You will have to export the report to a third-party app. You can also permanently delete the downloaded copy from your smartphone, but it will not delete any of your account's data.