WhatsApp warning over fee to keep old messages

Google has warned billions of WhatsApp users that backup storage for old chats, photos and videos will soon no longer be free.

Messages and media on the hugely popular messaging app will now count towards a user’s Google Account cloud storage limit if they use an Android device.

Personal Google Accounts come with 15GB of free storage, however that is shared across Google Drive, Gmail and Google Photos. This means any additional photos, videos and audio files from WhatsApp may force many users to pay for additional storage space.

“As an important heads up, WhatsApp backups on Android will soon start counting toward your Google Account cloud storage limit, similar to how WhatsApp backups are handled on other mobile platforms,” a Google community manager wrote in a blog post on Tuesday.

“WhatsApp backups on Android will continue to work, as long as you have available space within your Google Account storage. If you hit your storage limit, you’ll need to free up space to resume backups by removing items you do not need.”

The change will begin rolling out to WhatsApp Beta users next month, before coming to all WhatsApp users on Android in early 2024.

Of the roughly 3 billion WhatsApp users around the world, an estimated 73 per cent of them access the app on Android.

There are several price options for additional Google storage, with the cheapest monthly plan for 100GB of data starting at $1.99. This would cover all but the most data intensive WhatsApp users.

The update comes amid a major overhaul of how Google manages online accounts and data, with all personal accounts that have been inactive for more than two years set to be deleted in December.

The move is intended to improve security for active users, though some have noted that it may inadvertently impact people who have set up accounts for young children in order to share memories and milestones, as well as users who are in control of the accounts of deceased relatives.