WhatsApp is introducing a small amount of privacy-oriented tweaks to its messaging app, the company announced on Tuesday. The Meta-owned globally ubiquitous messaging service says the changes aim to give users more control over their experience, while introducing “added layers” to protect their private communications.
WhatsApp will introduce an option for users to use the app privately without being visible online, something it calls “online presence control.” The feature, which is rolling out to everyone this month, will let WhatsApp users curate which contacts can see their online status while hiding it from others. There’s no limit to the list of contacts who can see your online status, and you can switch people in and out at any time. The company says the update will come to both desktop and mobile app offerings.
The company is also testing blocking screenshots for “see once” messages, which disappear after being opened once. WhatsApp introduced a disappearing media option a year ago, reminding users at the time that they wouldn’t be able to know if the recipient saved any shared photos and videos as screenshots. The feature is in testing for now, but the company hopes to roll it out to users “soon.” (It’s worth remembering that anyone can still take a screenshot with another device, which should make you think twice about getting too comfortable with apps with disappearing messages.)
The latest change is another small quality of life update, but a notable one nonetheless. This month, WhatsApp will allow users to leave groups privately without sending out a mass notification that they’ve bailed. Group admins will still be notified, but overall this change should make moving through groups on the app more fluid and less difficult. This change will also roll out to both the desktop and mobile versions of the app.
WhatsApp product manager Ami Vora described the additions as a boost to the app’s “interlocking protection layer”, which aims to strengthen its status as a prominent encrypted messaging option.
The company has made other ventures over the years. Last fall, it closed one potential weakness in its encrypted messaging service, adding end-to-end encryption for backups stored in the cloud.
“We will continue to build new ways to protect your messages and keep them as private and secure as a face-to-face conversation,” Meta founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said of the new features.