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WhatsApp backups may soon count against Google Drive storage

New evidence found in a beta build of WhatsApp for Android suggests that Google may no longer be offering unlimited storage for WhatsApp backups.

This probably shouldn’t come as a big surprise, as Google has gradually been clamping down on its unlimited storage offerings. For years, Google offered storage allotments for Google Drive customers that ranged from generous to downright unlimited, but the search giant has slowly been walking that back lately.

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WhatsApp Google drive backup.

For instance, when Google announced the new Google Photos in 2015, it came with unlimited storage of people’s personal photo libraries, provided they were willing to live with some pretty reasonable upper limits on the sizes of individual photos and videos. Last year, however, the free ride ended, and Google Photos began counting toward the normal Google Drive storage quotas.

Similarly, Google and WhatsApp made an agreement a few years ago to exempt backups from the popular chat app. This meant that people using WhatsApp on Android could enjoy basically unlimited storage in Google Drive for their WhatsApp data — including any related media files they’d sent or received.

It was definitely a nice bonus that their iPhone-toting brethren didn’t benefit from since, of course, Apple doesn’t offer any such deals when it comes to storing third-party app data in iCloud. Unfortunately, it looks like this deal between Google and WhatsApp is about to come to an end. Code found by WABetaInfo in the latest WhatsApp beta for Android reveals that the chat app is taking steps to deal with a world where Google Drive storage will now be limited.

The folks at WABetaInfo note that they first saw hints of this three months ago, when a new feature for managing WhatsApp chat backups to Google Drive appeared. This feature would allow certain message types to be excluded from backups to save space on Google Drive.

Since that seemed like an unnecessary option when storage was unlimited, it raised concerns that things could be about to change, and now the latest WhatsApp beta seems to prove this. New text strings found in the latest beta build show messages that may appear when someone reaches their Google Drive storage limit, and notifications about when a new limit may be coming into effect.

It’s not entirely clear at this point if Google will still provide separate storage for WhatsApp backups apart from the normal Google Drive quota. However, it’s pretty clear that whatever storage Google does offer will be limited in some way.

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WhatsApp Web gets a browser extension to beef up security
An illustration of WhatsApp web linked to phones.

WhatsApp on the Web is a convenient way to access the messaging service on a desktop, without the hassle of installing an app. However, with the web, there’s always a risk of bad actors trying to trick users. With that in mind, WhatsApp is now offering a browser extension that verifies if users are on the authentic web version, or if they are on a tampered page that can steal data and install malware among other evil deeds.
How to use it
The process of using the browser extension-based security system is easy. Just go to the Chrome web store and search for Code Verify, hit the blue Add to Chrome button, and you’re good to go. As of now, Code Verify only works on Chrome, Edge, and Mozilla Firefox, but a version tailored for Safari is also in the development phase.

Once the browser extension has been installed and pinned to the toolbar, it will start doing its code verification job automatically every time users visit the WhatsApp Web page. And to inform users about the activity status, a color-code indicator system has been put in place. A green icon means everything is fine and there are no security risks.

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What is WhatsApp?

Launched in 2009, WhatsApp is a free, multi-platform messaging app that lets users make video and voice calls, send text messages, share their status, and more with just a Wi-Fi connection. Part of what makes this app appealing is that it works on various phone and computer operating systems, so you can continue your conversation anytime, anywhere. It can also take advantage of Wi-Fi and cellular data to make one-on-one or group calls, reducing the need for expensive calling charges. If this sounds exciting so far, keep reading to find out everything you need to know about WhatsApp.

Free international calls
WhatsApp uses your phone's cellular or Wi-Fi connection to facilitate messaging and voice calling to nearly anyone on the planet, alone or in a group, and is especially nice for families and small collaborative workgroups. The app lets you make calls, send and receive messages, and share documents, photos, and videos. WhatsApp is completely free -- with no fees or subscriptions -- because it uses your phone's 5G, 4G, 3G, 2G, EDGE, or Wi-Fi connection instead of your cell plan's voice minutes or text plan. If you’re connected via Wi-Fi, it won’t eat into your data plan, either.

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Now’s the time to dump WhatsApp, privacy advocates say
WhatsApp Messenger on an iPhone.

Earlier this year, WhatsApp updated its policy and forced users to accept the changes if they wanted to continue using the app. This move caused heavy backlash for various privacy and security reasons and prompted users to reconsider using the app for personal communication.
Fears about user privacy
“WhatsApp privacy policy is terrible for user privacy,” says Ashley Simmons, founder of avoidthehack!, a website that promotes online privacy and security awareness. “It requires data sharing with Facebook, doesn’t offer encryption for chat backups, and 'mines' the metadata of your messages.”

For instance, a WhatsApp blog post published in 2016 reads, "And by connecting your phone number with Facebook's systems, Facebook can offer better friend suggestions and show you more relevant ads if you have an account with them." 
After concerns like this garnered public attention, WhatsApp came forward with various clarifications, but by then, a lot of users had already started looking for alternatives like Telegram and Signal. 
Where does WhatsApp stand now?  
Today, WhatsApp still has more than 2 billion active users, but discussions about dumping the app for another, potentially more secure messaging service are still going online. 
Should users really consider leaving the app? Do suitable alternatives exist? We asked technology, social media, and privacy experts. 
Here are the WhatsApp alternatives

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