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Research shows deleted WhatsApp messages aren’t deleted

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Chat logs from WhatsApp linger on your phone even after you’ve deleted them, according to new research published by iOS expert Jonathan Zdziarski.

Forensic traces of chats linger on the phone even after a user archives or deletes them, Zdziarski found, and could be accessed by someone with physical access to the device or by law enforcement issuing a warrant to Apple for iCloud backups. Although the data is deleted from the app, it is not overwritten in the SQLite library and therefore remains on the phone.

“I installed the app and started a few different threads,” Zdziarski wrote in a blog post. “I then archived some, cleared, some, and deleted some threads. I made a second backup after running the ‘Clear All Chats’ function in WhatsApp. None of these deletion or archival options made any difference in how deleted records were preserved. In all cases, the deleted SQLite records remained intact in the database.”

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