A look at the most important WhatsApp privacy features over the years

Meta-owned WhatsApp refers to itself as a “simple, secure, reliable messaging and calling” service. According to Statista, WhatsApp has around 487 million users in India alone, making the country the lastest user base for the instant messaging and calling service. Here are some of the privacy and security features that have been introduced to the application over the years.

Hide your Profile Picture, Last Seen, and Status updates from contacts

Earlier this week, a new WhatsApp update brought a new way for you to hide your profile picture, status updates and other information from people. Until the update, you could choose between showing your profile picture, last seen details and status updates to everyone, all your contacts or nobody at all.

The new update added a “My contacts except…” option to the existing three options. This means that users can now choose to hide this information from some select contacts. This means that everyone in your contacts will be able to see this information but the people you select.

Hiding last seen from users without chat history

In December 2021, WhatsApp added a new privacy measure where users’ Last Seen was hidden from everyone who they haven’t messaged on WhatsApp before. This meant that even if your Last Seen visibility was set to “Everyone” or “My contacts,” people in either of those groups would not be able to see your Last Seen unless you messaged them. This was an effort to combat stalkers from monitoring users.

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Disappearing messages

Around the same time, WhatsApp began offering another feature that would come in handy for those who want more privacy: disappearing messages. The new feature would allow users to set a default timer for all messages, which would then disappear within 24 hours, 7 days or 90 days after they are sent. However, people could still bypass this feature by taking screenshots or clicking pictures of the chat from another device.

End-to-end encryption on WhatsApp

In 2016, WhatsApp introduce a landmark privacy feature: end-to-end encryption. End-to-end encryption of messages meant that chats between two users could only be accessed by the two users and no third party, including Facebook, Apple and Googlecould access chat records.

Each chat has a unique security key or encryption code that appears as both a QR code and a 60-digit number. Two users speaking to each other on the platform can check and see if their keys match to see whether the chats are truly encrypted and also to see whether all linked devices of both parties are up to date with the encryption.

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