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  1. #1

    Alternative contacts app

    I've just acquired a Samsung S8 and am being strongly encouraged to install Whatsapp. I don't mind using such services (within certain limits), but I draw the line at the requirement in the usage terms to allow the software to frequently check my 'phone's contact list and pass all the numbers on to the company. Edit: It's in the privacy policy, so not strictly a requirement.

    So, I'm considering an alternative plan: Delete all contacts from my 'phone except for known Whatsapp users, and install a third-party contacts+dialer app to contain a more complete list. I don't think that would breach the terms since Whatsapp doesn't insist on knowing every 'phone number I ever use, just the ones in the phone's contact list. As long as I can find a good enough app it shouldn't be a problem for me, and might make life harder for any other slurpers/data-miners.

    How likely is Whatsapp to (be able to) query a third-party app for contact details, or search through local storage for any backed-up contacts? (I periodically export my contact list as a .vcf to the phone's SD card.) Are there any other holes in my cunning plan?
    Last edited by Pastychomper; 04-19-2018 at 05:41 AM.

  2. #2
    After some digging I think I've found the answer.

    Most of the contact+dialer apps I looked at use the main contacts list for storage, in other words they use the same database as the default app, so no advantage to me.

    There are several "private phonebook" apps which allow some contacts to be transferred to a separate list, which is password-protected. These would probably do the job, though I might then need to enter an extra password to make calls to the protected numbers. I didn't pursue this any further because I found that...

    The "secure folder" feature of the S8 (and some other Galaxy 'phones) is not just a secure directory. It provides an effective sandbox / container which can be used to run just about any application. Some describe it as a 'phone within a 'phone, I think of it as a chroot jail.

    I installed Whatsapp in the secure folder, imported a known Whatsapp user's details into the folder's contacts, and adjusted the settings to pass any notifications "out" so I don't have to be logged in to the secure folder to see them. So far it seems to be a roaring success, although I haven't yet found out if the sandboxed Whatsapp will be autorun after the 'phone restarts.

    There are a few disadvantages to the secure folder:
    1. It requires acceptance of some long additional terms & conditions and privacy policies from Samsung
    2. It can only be used for non-commercial purposes (the terms do hint at the possibility of exceptions)
    3. Setting it up activates Samsung's "cloud" services, whereon several apps start asking for permission to copy data to Samsung's servers
    4. An extra login step is required at least once per boot to use any sandboxed apps.

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