Everything Worth Knowing About WhatsApp’s Big Privacy Update

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Photo: BongkarnGraphic (Shutterstock)

“WhatsApp” and “privacy” have a complicated relationship. The app is famously end-to-end encrypted, meaning your messages can only be read on your device and the devices to which you send those messages. However, the app is also owned by Meta (née Facebook), famous for harvesting and abusing user data. Nevertheless, WhatsApp continues to try to improve its overall privacy and security, introducing new features to help users keep their chats, images, and online activity under wraps.

WhatsApp announced most of the new features in a blog post on Aug. 9, as part of an ongoing privacy campaign. However, the timeline for when these features will hit your device isn’t totally clear. The blog post says WhatsApp is adding them “today,” but, at the same time, that features will be rolling out to customers “this month.” It’s possible you will see some or all of these features active in your WhatsApp immediately, or you may have a short wait. In any case, here are the privacy enhancements you can expect:

Screenshot blocking for View Once

View Once is WhatsApp’s answer to Snapchat: It gives you the ability to send a photo to friends and family that disappears once opened. The use cases vary, of course. You might want to send a simple post of an outfit without it saving to your phone’s camera roll, or you might have a sensitive image you need to share but don’t want leaving the chat.

A View Once photo only works in practice if you know it won’t be shared by the contact who opens it, as since the feature’s inception last year, WhatsApp users have been able to freely screenshot these images, turning View Once into View As Many Times As You Like.

With the latest WhatsApp update, however, the app finally blocks screenshots on any View Once images. If someone tries to screenshot a View Once photo, they will only receive an alert letting them know the screenshot was stopped. WhatsApp specifically says this feature is still in testing but will begin rolling out to everyone soon.

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Silently leave group chats

Group chats can get annoying fast, but leaving one can be more of a headache than it’s worth. Most apps spill the beans when someone leaves a group chat, overtly announcing to everyone in the party that one of its members is no longer interested in the conversation. What’s worse—a constant barrage of messages in good fun, or a constant barrage of messages demanding to know why you left the chat?

Now, WhatsApp lets you leave chats silently (although group admins will still be notified). The only way for a regular participant to know you exited a group chat is to check the list of participants and see your name missing from its ranks. It’s still possible things will get awkward, but it’s far less likely, especially in giant chats.

Choose who sees you’re online

There are times we need to chat with certain people but don’t want to open the invitation to all our contacts. WhatsApp’s online statuses ensure that simply responding to one friend means all of our contacts can see we’re active, and “ready to talk.”

Not only is WhatsApp offering you the ability to go private while using the app, you can now pick and choose who sees you’re online. That way, only the people you most want to talk to will see when you’re active.

Delete messages up to two days later

If you’re regretting some things you sent over WhatsApp, you might be able to take it all back: The app now lets you delete messages some 60 hours after sending them. Deleting will remove the message from both your app and the apps of any contacts you sent it to.

WhatsApp originally shared this news in a Tweet, saying that you have “a little over 2 days to delete your messages.” As WABetaInfo clarified below the official timing is two days and 12 hours. A random amount of time, but sure.

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