WhatsApp adds new options for disappearing messages

Recently the social network introduced a new way for photos and videos to immediately disappear after being viewed once

WhatsApp is now offering new options for disappearing messages as it aims to make users’ chatting more private.

The popular social media platform announced that from now on users have the option to turn on disappearing messages by default for all new conversations. This new option empowers users with the ability to enable message disappearing for all their chats at the same time and choose when they want their conversations to be erased.

“When enabled, all new one-on-one chats you or another person start will be set to disappear at your chosen duration, and we’ve added a new option when creating a group chat that lets you turn it on for groups you create. This new feature is optional and does not change or delete any of your existing chats,” said WhatsApp.

Due to the end-to-end encryption messages within the social network are private. However, digital messages consider as permanent, since there is a record of users’ data that can be restored through the chat history.

WhatsApp introduced the disappearing messages tools last year offering an alternative to those who do not want to keep their digital record. The company has recently presented a way for photos and videos to immediately disappear after being viewed once.

By default, the disappearing message option keeps a digital archive of users’ messages for 7 days, before deleting them permanently. Now, WhatsApp has added to new options of duration for disappearing messages: 24 hours and 90 days [as well as the existing option of 7 days] and the users can choose between.

“For people who choose to switch on default disappearing messages, we will display a message in your chats that tells people this is the default you’ve chosen. This makes clear it’s nothing personal – it’s a choice you’ve made about how you want to communicate with everyone on WhatsApp moving forward. Though of course, if you need a particular conversation to remain permanent, it’s easy to switch a chat back,” said WhatsApp.

The company also highlighted that “living apart from family and friends for over a year has made it clearer than ever that just because we can’t physically talk in person, it doesn’t mean we should have to sacrifice the privacy of our conversations. 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 bring us one step closer to the feeling of an in-personal conversation”.

The new feature applies only in new chats or group chats and is now available to all users, with no exceptions.

Apart from what is stated by WhatsApp, the disappearing messages tools doesn’t guarantee privacy nor users could be ensured that their messages won’t be saved in any other way, like screenshots or when someone uses a secondary device (such as a camera) to make a copy of an online conversation.

End-to-end encryption and the new disappearing messages tools consist of a strong firewall that aims at making users’ conversations more private. However, as pointed out by many social media and cybersecurity analysts, there is still a long way to go until users’ conversations are 100% secure, private, and can be permanently erased.

George Mavridis is a freelance journalist and writer based in Greece. His work primarily covers tech, innovation, social media, digital communication, and politics. He graduated from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki with a BA in Journalism and Mass Communication. Also, he holds an MA in Media and Communication Studies from the Malmö University of Sweden and an MA in Digital Humanities from the Linnaeus University of Sweden.