WhatsApp has introduced a new feature for its Android and iOS users, which preserves their privacy by concealing their location during calls. This enhancement utilizes WhatsApp’s server as an intermediary to obscure the call’s IP address, which typically reveals information about the user’s internet service provider and general location.
The engineering team at WhatsApp has clarified that this feature diverts from the usual direct peer-to-peer connection, which necessitates sharing IP addresses for call data delivery. However, the change to server relay does not compromise call security; WhatsApp assures that it is unable to access the content of these end-to-end encrypted calls. Group calls, the company notes, have always been routed through its servers.
“Most existing calling applications use direct peer-to-peer connections, leading to improved call quality and speed,” WhatsApp engineers stated. “However, this necessitates the sharing of IP addresses between participants, compromising location privacy on one-on-one calls.”
Enabling the “Protect IP Address in Calls” setting secures the user’s IP address from being exposed to others on the call, providing an extra privacy measure for those particularly concerned about their digital security.
Users can activate this feature by navigating to Settings > Privacy > Advanced and switching on the “Protect IP Address in Calls” option.
As part of its privacy reinforcement strategy, in June 2023, WhatsApp released a ‘Silence Unknown Callers’ option, allowing users to filter calls from unrecognized numbers. These calls are muted but logged in the call history for later review, which helps prevent inadvertent blocking of important contacts.
This functionality decreases the likelihood of receiving spam, fraudulent calls, and ‘zero-click’ attacks by requiring verification tokens for calls to ring through. These measures are a segment of WhatsApp’s broader initiative to safeguard user conversations, which also saw the addition of ‘Chat Lock’ in May, enabling users to secure sensitive chat threads.
In conclusion, WhatsApp emphasizes that the addition of ‘Silence Unknown Callers’ and ‘Protect IP Address in Calls’ features reflects its continuous commitment to enhancing user privacy and security.