New privacy features being rolled out this month mean that WhatsApp users can now leave group chats silently.
Three New Privacy Features
WhatsApp has announced the introduction of three new privacy features: Leave Groups Silently, Choose Who Can See When You’re Online, and Screenshot Blocking For View Once Messages.
- Leave Groups Silently – For users of group chats. Now, instead of notifying the full group when leaving (which can be a little awkward), it’s only a case of the group admins needing to be notified.
- Choose Who Can See When You’re Online – Although WhatsApp says “: Seeing when friends or family are online helps us feel connected to one another” it acknowledges that there are times when users would prefer to keep their online presence private. This new feature gives users the ability to select who can and can’t see when they’re online.
- Screenshot Blocking For View Once Messages – WhatsApp says this feature is essentially an added layer of protection to what already “an incredibly popular” privacy feature. WhatsApp says it is currently testing this feature.
WhatsApp is keen to remind users that these features are in a long line of steps designed to protect their privacy, which have recently included disappearing messages that self-destruct, end-to-end encrypted backups when users want to save their chat history, 2-step verification, and the ability to block and report unwanted chats.
On the same day as WhatsApp’s new privacy features were announced, competitor Snapchat announced its new ‘Family Centre’ child safety tool which allows parents to see their children’s friend list and who is communicating with them. Snapchat’s new tool to provide “insights” into teen users’ lives (rather than oversight of them) requires the teen’s account to agree to link up with an account belonging to someone over 25.
Back in May, WhatsApp introduced emojis and the ability to share files within WhatsApp up to 2GB as part of a push by Facebook/Meta to stay at the top of the free encrypted messaging app market and compete with rivals like Snapchat. For example, in January, Snapchat announced a major update (for iOS) which included improved calling, ‘Chat Replies,’ Bitmoji Reactions (to allow for more expression), and Poll Stickers to enable emoji-powered polls in Snaps and Stories to survey friends. Meta also wants to consolidate and leverage the power of its other popular apps by integrating and making Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram interoperable.
Online Safety Bill and WhatsApp
With WhatsApp being one of the end-to-end encrypted apps that’s been the target of UK government pressure for ‘back doors’ for monitoring messages to be introduced, along with the Online Safety Bill threatening to weaken encryption, WhatsApp’s made it clear that it won’t be pressured. For example, in recent a BBC interview, WhatsApp’s CEO, Will Cathcart, said that the platform’s security wouldn’t be weakened on government orders, and these new privacy features are one of the many that WhatsApp has been letting users know that the privacy of the app is non-negotiable in a way that benefits users.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
With WhatsApp being Meta-owned, plus being under pressure by the government to weaken encryption, as well as having to compete with Snapchat, it’s no surprise that its new features are privacy-based and a way of emphasising to users that it’s not going to compromise on privacy and security. For example, WhatsApp used the same announcement to say, “we’re also kicking off a campaign to educate people about the new features and our continued commitment to protecting your private conversations on WhatsApp.” That said, features such as being able to ‘silently’ leave a group are going to make using WhatsApp a more comfortable user experience, which is increasingly important to WhatsApp as it tries to continue wooing business users.