Thursday 5 November 2020 2:01 pm

Ghosted: Whatsapp rolls out disappearing messages in privacy push

Whatsapp is introducing a new function that will delete messages from the app after seven days in an effort to ramp up its privacy credentials.

The social media platform, which has more than 2bn users worldwide, said the new feature will help keep chats private and “more like a face-to-face conversation that is not recorded for all time”.

Users will have the option of setting a seven-day timer for messages, after which they will be deleted from each person’s app. In group chats, admins can enable the function.

However, Whatsapp said people could still forward any messages, images or videos, or take screenshots of them, before they disappear.

“We’re starting with 7 days because we think it offers peace of mind that conversations aren’t permanent, while remaining practical so you don’t forget what you were chatting about,” the app said in a blog post.

The feature, which is being rolled out this month, mirrors a similar service already available on Signal, an encrypted messaging app with a focus on privacy. Photo app Snapchat is also based on disappearing messages.

The move reflects efforts by Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg to improve privacy on the company’s portfolio of apps, which also includes Instagram, in response to criticism over data protection.

The social media giant is also looking to integrate Whatsapp, Instagram and Messenger to offer a unified messaging service across its platforms. 

“Whatsapp are likely keen to stop users moving to other, more privacy-focused messaging platforms, such as Signal and Telegram, which already offer built-in disappearing messages along with additional security features,” said Jake Moore, cybersecurity specialist at ESET.

“Self-erasing chat functionality offers a good layer of protection if people decide to share sensitive information like bank details or passwords with their contacts.

“However, many people still have an issue with the fact that data giant Facebook owns Whatsapp – even though it continues to state that they do not have access to the content within the encrypted messages.”