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I'm trying to install WhatsApp, but I'm obviously uncomfortable about serving up my entire address book for Facebook to trawl through.

I've found plenty of posts from a few years back saying it is possible, but I'm wondering if something has changed.

On opening the app and going to the 'chats' screen, I'm greeted with a screen saying "To help you message friends and family on WhatsApp, allow WhatsApp access to your contacts" along with a link to open my settings.

If I push the green 'chat' button in the bottom right, I get a popup with the same message. If I hit the 'not now' option, it closes the popup and puts me back on the original screen.

There doesn't seem to be a way forward here. Does this app just strong-arm you into uploading your contacts list in order to use it? Or is it potentially a more phone-specific issue?

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  • As far as I know yes, but then you can't send messages on your own, only reply to existing messages.
    – Robert
    Sep 13, 2020 at 11:11

2 Answers 2

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Try installing Shizuku and App-Ops from Play Store. And activate Shizuku using PC or root and activate App-Ops via Shizuku. Then in App-Ops, navigate to WhatsApp, and after pressing it, go to contacts permission and choose to ignore it. This will trick WhatsApp where you have given it contacts permission but with null data.

OR

You can just do it via ADB or a rooted terminal in your phone using adb shell to access your phone interactive shell and seeing the $ sign. Then write this code

appops set com.whatsapp CONTACTS ignore

to ignore contacts permission in WhatsApp where com.whatsapp is the WhatsApp package name.

And if you want to chat with someone who is not in your chats, just type the chat link in notes or browser, then open it via WhatsApp. It's something like https://wa.me/+15555550155 where +1 is the contact country code (BECAUSE YOU MUST TYPE THE COUNTRY CODE BEFORE THE NUMBER). You can also type the country code without the + sign as this: https://wa.me/15555550155

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  • I can confirm that this works with an Android 13 / Samsung One UI device. Great!
    – Playnary
    Jan 10 at 16:07
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The technical answer is no, there is no way to send a message to a new person without giving the app access to your contacts. You can, in certain cases, receive messages, but only if someone else who has allowed WhatsApp full contact access has first added you as a contact on their device.

There are two workarounds:

  1. The obvious, though least helpful, solution is to simply use another device and have that device be your WhatsApp device. You give WhatsApp full access to that device's contacts, but have no contacts in it for WhatsApp to siphon clean.
  2. Recent versions of Android allow multiple users and allow easy switching between them. Each user is essentially its own self-contained ecosystem with access to its own set of apps, accounts, and permissions. You can have a second user on your phone that has no contacts, so giving Whatsapp on that account access to the contacts is no problem. This is the solution I use.

While it doesn't solve the problem of software vendors using bad faith methods to get inflated permissions, it does limit it. And if enough people take advantage of Android users to contain WhatsApp, then we may see change there.

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