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

WhatsApp owned by Meta refers to itself as a “simple, secure and reliable messaging and communication” service. According to Statista, WhatsApp has around 487 million users in India alone, making the country the newest user base for the instant messaging and calling service. Here are some of the privacy and security features that have been introduced to the app 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 can choose between viewing your profile picture, last seen details and status updates for everyone, all of your contacts or no one at all.

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

Hide 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 had not sent them on WhatsApp before. This means that even if your Last Seen is set to Everyone or My Contacts, people in either group will not be able to see your Last Seen unless you message them. This was an effort to combat stalkers from monitoring users.

messages disappear

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

Comprehensive encryption on WhatsApp

In 2016, WhatsApp introduced a historic privacy feature: end-to-end encryption. End-to-end encryption of messages means that chats between two users can only be accessed by two users and no third party, including Facebook, Apple and Google, can access chat logs.

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

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