WhatsApp now allows users to have chats disappear by default

7 Dec 2021

Image: © Denys Prykhodov/Stock.adobe.com

The messaging app has added options for making new chats disappear by default, with adjustable times before they are deleted.

WhatsApp has announced new options for making messages disappear, as the company continues to focus on privacy features.

Users now have the option to turn on disappearing messages by default for all new chats. If enabled, all new one-on-one chats for a user will be set to disappear at their chosen duration, with an option also available for group chats. The feature does not change or delete existing chats.

It is an extension of the disappearing chats feature introduced last year, which allowed for messages to disappear after one week, and the more recently added option for photos and videos to immediately disappear after being viewed once.

WhatsApp, owned by the company now known as Meta, said there is a “the freedom to be honest and vulnerable, knowing that conversation isn’t being recorded and stored somewhere forever”.

There are two new durations for disappearing messages, 24 hours and 90 days, as well as the existing option of seven days.

WhatsApp said a message will display in conversations that tells people this is the default option the user has chosen. It’s also possible to have a particular conversation switch back to permanent if a user changes their mind.

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the new feature on Facebook, saying “not all messages need to stick around forever”.

In another effort to increase privacy and security for users, WhatsApp introduced the option to encrypt chat history backups in October.

“We believe disappearing messages along with end-to-end encryption are two crucial features that define what it means to be a private messaging service today and brings us one step closer to the feeling of an in-personal conversation,” the company said in its latest announcement.

WhatsApp updated its privacy policy for users in Europe last month with more details about how it collects and uses data. This came after it was fined €225m from the Irish Data Protection Commission in September for breaching transparency obligations under GDPR.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic