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I have avoided WhatsApp so far because I don't want to grant it/facebook permission to offload my contacts from my device into their cloud. However, this becomes a bit hard to sustain, so I was wondering whether I could perhaps be "passively" contacted on WhatsApp (instead of "actively" sending sending own messages) without such requirement.

So I have now installed the app, without granting it permission to access my contacts. I was hoping that friends who already use the service and who have my phone number in their list of iOS contacts could now send me messages. However, this does not seem to be the case. Apparently, I do not show up among their "WhatsApp contacts".

So my question is this: do both parties participating in a WhatsApp chat have to grant their apps access to their (full list of) contacts, or is there a way to participate in a more "private" way like I intended?

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    According to WhatsApp FAQ's on this, other users should still be able to see your phone number but not your name. Does this workaround not work for you (or them)? – fsb Jun 23 '18 at 14:27
  • @fsb If you want to turn your comment into an answer, I shall accept it: this does indeed work. – Drux Jul 17 '18 at 18:00
  • Glad it worked (but sorry you have to turn over your contacts to these companies). I've added the answer. – fsb Jul 17 '18 at 21:02
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Source for this is the WhatsApp FAQs:

If you don't allow WhatsApp access to your contacts

Although we strongly recommend allowing WhatsApp access to your phone's contacts, you can continue to use WhatsApp in a limited capacity without allowing access.

If you deny WhatsApp access to your phone's contacts, you'll still be able to: - Receive messages from other WhatsApp users and groups - Change WhatsApp settings

You won't be able to:
- See any contact names and will only see phone numbers
- Start new Groups or Broadcast Lists

How to enable access to your contacts

If you initially denied WhatsApp access to your phone's contacts, you can enable access by going to your phone's settings:

  • Go to Settings > Privacy.
  • Tap Contacts.
  • Make sure WhatsApp is turned on.
  • I go to Settings > Privacy > Contacts and there is no WhatsApp... even if I go to Settings > WhatsApp there no contacts option – debute Aug 30 '18 at 17:50
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[2018-12-10 iOS v2.18.102]

If you can get contact with one person, then it is possible to gain access to everyone they know, and thus expand your connection tree through new contacts:

  1. Ask the one contact you have, to start a chat which includes other contacts of theirs that you don't have.
  2. Send a message directly to the group member you want to chat with.
  3. (opt) The chat admin can then shut down the group chat, whilst you continue to chat with your new contact person-to-person.

You cannot save the contacts, or attribute names to them, they appear only as phone numbers.

To get that first contact, I had whatsapps installed before access to contacts became mandatory. Which doesn't help you. So some ideas which may:

  • source and install an old version of whatsapp (from a backup or internet archive?), add your one contact(s), then upgrade, denying access to contacts.
  • can you install the desktop version of whatsapp and somehow transfer contacts from there? (I don't know, I've not installed the desktop version).

Obligatory mention of the inevitable solution: Introduce your contacts to more conscientious alternatives like Signal or Telegram.

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