WhatsApp Adds Disappearing Messages to Upgrade Privacy

By Bill Toulas / November 5, 2020

Many instant messaging apps that value user privacy offer the option to set a timer after which the sent messages disappear. This will make them inaccessible for the other party, so any sensitive information shared on the moment will have the sole purpose of being conveyed and not traced back and recurred in the future.

WhatsApp is the latest application to add this otherwise common option, so if you’re interested in it, you can activate it right from the chat options. For group chats, this option will only be available to the admins.

WhatsApp has shared the following details on how the new “disappearing messages” system will work on the app:

While it may appear like a strong privacy-protection system, this new feature shouldn’t be considered a panacea. The truth is, it won’t help users much in the case that the recipient is determined to keep the shared information handy.

For example, one can simply take a screenshot of the message before it disappears - or copy the content and paste it on their device's local storage. Even if WhatsApp opted to block screenshot functionality on the app, one could use another device to take a photo of the screen.

Also, the decision to set the timer to seven days and not allow the user to reduce this period isn’t exactly making the privacy aspect very powerful. As a spokesperson of WhatsApp explained, they wanted to start with something that doesn’t undermine practicality while still introducing peace of mind about the non-permanent nature of conversations on the platform.

The new feature has landed simultaneously on all platforms (Android, iOS, KaiOS, Windows, Web). WhatsApp has posted individual instructions on how to turn disappearing messages on and off for each of them here.

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