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Thursday, May 30, 2024

3 New WhatsApp Features Let You Be a Little Sneaky

What’s happening

WhatsApp is adding privacy features that let you quietly leave group chats, hide your online status and block others from taking screenshots of photos meant to be viewed one time.

Why it matters

The privacy features will add better ways to control your visibility in conversations, and keep prying eyes away from how often you are checking in on the app.

What’s next

WhatsApp’s new features are being announced roughly a month before Apple’s iMessage is expected to bring iOS 16 to the masses, the latter adding message editing and unsending.

WhatsApp announced three new privacy features Tuesday, one of which will let you leave a group chat without alerting the entire group.

The Meta-owned company says it will add the ability to leave groups silently, meaning that administrators will still get an alert but everyone else in a group chat will not. This could be especially useful for larger group chats — for instance, ones that are themed around an event or a hyperactive chat that you just don’t find that engaging anymore. 

WhatsApp will also soon let you hide your active online status from specific people, and when enabled the app will not show those selected the exact moments you are available within the app. Currently, the app shows when you are online to anyone who can view your profile within the app. WhatsApp also can show people when you were last active, and that can already be hidden from other people within the app’s privacy settings.

The ability to leave groups silently and hide your online status will roll out to WhatsApp later this month, and its third feature — currently in testing — will block others from taking screenshots of messages that are meant to be viewed one time. This has been a major issue for apps that encourage ephemeral messaging like Snapchat, which in the past have combatted the issue by sending a notification when a message is copied via screenshot.

While it should help, it’s worth noting it’s not full-proof: even an ephemeral message can still be captured using a separate device like another phone or camera. Anyone sending sensitive material should still take care even after WhatsApp launches the screenshot-blocking feature.

WhatsApp’s new wave of features arrives a month before the expected public release of iOS 16, which is going to update iMessage to include features like editing a message and unsending a message. Both of those iOS 16 features will only work between Apple devices that support iMessage. Unsending a message will work much like how WhatsApp and other chat apps already allow you to delete an existing message, by replacing the previous text with a notification that a message was unsent.

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