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?

  • 2
    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
    Commented Jun 23, 2018 at 14:27
  • @fsb If you want to turn your comment into an answer, I shall accept it: this does indeed work.
    – Drux
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 18:00
  • Glad it worked (but sorry you have to turn over your contacts to these companies). I've added the answer.
    – fsb
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 21:02

5 Answers 5


Disclaimer: I have only used the Android app, so this may be incorrect for iOS.

I was able to be initially messaged by someone, and thus have them perpetually available in the WhatsApp-internal contact list, all without sharing my device contacts. This was done by getting a "first-class" user who has already forked over their contacts to message me first.

The user who first messages you must allow WhatsApp contact access on their personal device. I know of no way around this, but to be fair, if you're trying to use WhatsApp then you're probably trying to connect with someone who has already done this.

Here is how I managed it:

  1. Install WhatsApp and repeatedly deny any Contacts access.
  2. Have another party who has already forked over their contacts attempt to contact you on WhatsApp.
  3. When they are presented with the list of their contacts, they should select "New Contact" or something of the sort.
  4. The other party should enter your phone number into this new contact. They should complete this step even if they already have you as a contact on their phone. This step forcibly exposes the phone number to WhatsApp, while it otherwise would not show that you are a WhatsApp user.
  5. The other party can now message you as normal, add you to groups, etc. You can message them back.
  6. (Optional but recommended) Initially, WhatsApp will continually ask you whether the message you have received is spam. There seems to be no way to do this in the mobile app without actually adding the person to your WhatsApp-visible contacts (and thus forking over your contacts). However, WhatsApp for Desktop or Web makes it really easy to simply mark the conversation as "not spam", so for the best experience, sign in to one of those apps to do just that.
  • 1
    Yes, that's what I am by now doing in the iOS version as well.
    – Drux
    Commented May 21, 2020 at 7:00

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 Commented Aug 30, 2018 at 17:50
  • 10
    This is such a user/privacy hostile limitation imposed by facebook. It's obvious they want to scrape all users contacts to build their social graph. In pre-FB WA, the usernames were visible without granting access to the contacts, then one day they dissapeared... There is no technical reason that creating groups should not work without the address book. (insert profanity here) They should get fined for behavior like this.
    – 3dGrabber
    Commented Apr 13, 2022 at 15:24

Maybe not the right answer, but it could be useful. Definitely, the best option on iOS is https://apps.apple.com/es/app/dialer-for-whatsapp/id1534997088

It’s a free app, without adds and you just dial the number and that is. I find it useful when I want to send a WhatsApp message to someone I don’t have store as a contact, but it could be definitely a good option for your use case.

I use to send messages to myself too when I want to remember something.

  • This is the method I am using. Works well enough for basic WhatsApp usage. Most of my close friends and family have all obliged to my suggestion they install Signal or Telegram. So my need for WhatsApp is relatively limited.
    – inspirednz
    Commented Mar 25 at 19:12

[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.


Today you simply need to answer (or message) the person who messages you using WhatsApp back (at least on iPhone iOS 16+) and the "Block" "Add to contacts" will disappear without you have to give them access to your iPhone Contacts.

  • True, just answer to the people that you needed be contacted by and it works.
    – StackHola
    Commented Jul 22, 2023 at 9:59

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