Tech

WhatsApp Soon to Introduce Self-Destructing Messages

By Bill Toulas / March 16, 2020

WhatsApp, created by Facebook, is getting ready to introduce the important privacy feature of message self-destruction. Currently used by over two billion people, WhatsApp is the world’s most popular messaging application. It is trusted and used by so many thanks to its unwavering stance in maintaining a secure "end-to-end" encryption system to help its users protect their communications from prying eyes. This is precisely why the app is banned in China, Iran, Turkey, Brazil, Sri Lanka, and Uganda, and why the government of the United States has been pushing Facebook to reconsider their technical approach for quite a while now.

According to a report by wabetainfo.com, who tested an upcoming version of WhatsApp (2.20.83), the developers of the app are working on a message self-deletion feature. The user may set the self-destruction timer to an hour, day, week, month, or a year. While these options may not be as granular as some users may have preferred, they are certainly covering the needs of the majority. Once the user sets a self-destruction timer, the messages will appear with a small clock icon right on the bubble, indicating that they are temporary.

Delete_Message_Time

Source: WaBetaInfo

WhatsApp is essentially introducing a feature that’s relatively common in apps of this kind, and even in the same-stable Facebook Messenger app. In addition, Signal supports self-deleting messages, Snapchat does it too, Telegram has the feature incorporated in its "Secret Chats," and Wickr offers a short viewing window before it deletes messages. Confide, Dust, SpeakOn, StealthChat, and Keybase are all offering this capability too. So, what WhatsApp is doing here is catching up with the competition, as they’re seeing other players gaining traction. Signal, for example, is getting increasingly popular, threatening to become the next hot thing in the field, so WhatsApp has to start introducing more privacy and security-focused features if they want to keep their crown.

Of course, self-destructing messages can only go so far when it comes to the privacy of the users. No matter how short the timer that is set may be, the recipient can always just capture a screenshot of the chat (and the message content) and keep it forever. That said, this feature is a pretty basic measure aimed at helping users maintain some level of privacy. If someone else accesses their devices, they won’t be able to read their chat histories, while screenshots of chats aren’t concrete evidence of something having been said since these can always be manipulated via image editors. As basic of a feature as this may be, self-destructing messages still hold an important value to the end-user.



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