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WhatsApp update adds new privacy tools to keep people from disclosing personal information

·2-min read
WhatsApp users who are switching to an iPhone from Android can now take their message history with them (Nick Ansell/PA) (PA Archive)
WhatsApp users who are switching to an iPhone from Android can now take their message history with them (Nick Ansell/PA) (PA Archive)

WhatsApp has added new privacy tools intended to keep people’s personal information safe.

The update lets people adjust who can see important personal information, such as the profile photo or status. Importantly, it also covers the “last seen” feature, which when switched on tells everyone when you last opened the app.

By default, much of that information is shown to everybody. That means that people can use the “last seen” setting to seen when people were last on their phone, for instance.

Now the app includes new tools that mean users can control who can see that information. WhatsApp said it had added the new features to “further protect your privacy online”.

The update lets people choose whether that information can be shown to everyone, only people in your contacts, everyone in your contacts apart from specific people, or nobody at all.

The options can be found by clicking the “more options” button on Android, or going to Settings on iPhone. ON that page there will be an “account” option, and in there is a “privacy” button that gives access to those settings and more.

If the option is switched off, then it will also change what information you can see about other people. If the “last seen” is hidden, for instance, then you won’t be able to see it for other people.

That is the same as read receipts – which have been customisable for some time – where it is only possible to see whether someone has read a message when you also have that setting turned on. Read receipts always show for group chats, however.

The privacy settings also notably do not change the “online” and “typing” indicators. That means that there is no way to open the app without people being able to see that you are online.

WhatsApp does warn about those features, but does not explain why there is no option to turn them off.

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