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WhatsApp update: New chats can now be set to disappear by default, Meta adds more disappearing message durations
Before Facebook became Meta, the social media empire faced widespread backlash over policy changes earlier this year that raised concerns on how it handles user data and online privacy on WhatsApp. But Meta appears to be making up for that by introducing more privacy-focused features in the months that followed. Now, the company is expanding how the messaging app’s disappearing messages work.
Disappearing messages is one of the most-awaited WhatsApp features that became widely available this year to the app, which has two billion active users worldwide. And Meta has just made it even easier to use in an update announced on Monday.
The company confirmed in a blog post that WhatsApp users can now make disappearing messages a default setting for all new incoming chats. Before this update, users had to manually enable the function in every conversation.
In the sample images Meta provided, it appears that the app will get a new “Default message time” menu from the Privacy settings where users can agree to “start new chats with disappearing messages.” When the new feature is enabled, users will see a reminder on the upper portion of the conversation window that will tell them they have enabled the default timer for disappearing messages in new chats.
As part of this week’s update, Meta also added two new durations for the WhatsApp disappearing messages feature. Previously, users could only choose to make chats disappear in seven days. But Meta has now added the 24 hours and 90 days options. The options are still not as expansive as Signal’s, where users can choose between 30 seconds to 4 weeks or add a custom time, but it should still be a welcome change.
“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,” Meta said in the blog post. However, not everyone is looking forward to this kind of update on WhatsApp.
UK’s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) has voiced its concern that the improved disappearing messages function would be exploited by child abuse perpetrators. “This poorly thought out design decision will enable offenders to rapidly delete evidence of child abuse,” NSPCC head of child safety online policy Andy Burrows said (via the Guardian).