WhatsApp disappearing messages: turned on
  • WhatsApp has turned on a disappearing messages feature when creating new groups, which will delete all posted messages after one week.
  • But it won't keep you safe from anyone who is keen to save a message, or if one is forwarded outside the chat.
  • You can also, in theory, set all your one-on-one messages to auto-delete after as little as a day, but that is not universally available yet.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

WhatsApp this week started rolling out more options for disappearing messages – including a setting to make all of your messages auto-delete, which we have yet to see in the wild – saying it wants to give users more "freedom to be honest and vulnerable".

When creating a WhatsApp group, you can now set it to disappear all the messages posted there one week later, the company announced.

That will let people who join the group see what they've signed up for...

WhatsApp disappearing messages notification

... with a more prominent and detailed explanation on the WhatsApp web version.

WhatsApp disappearing messages notification on web

WhatsApp first introduced disappearing messages a little over a year ago, saying it wanted to help conversations "feel lighter and more private".

It is now allowing that choice to be set by default, and with more fine-grained control. Previously, you could only have messages automatically delete after seven days. New options will include 90 days, and 24 hours, the company said.

Meanwhile, "WhatsApp users will now have the option to turn on disappearing messages by default for all new chats. When enabled, all new one-on-one chats you or another person start will be set to disappear at your chosen duration," it said.

Although that option was advertised as already available (via a new "Default Message Timer" option under privacy settings), it was not yet showing up in the apps of South African users we polled.

When all chats are set to auto-delete, you'll have the option to exempt specific contacts, and have messages with those people stick around, WhatsApp said.

The company branded disappearing messages as a way for everyday conversations to flow more freely, rather than as a security option.

"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 personal conversations," it said.

The feature comes with a set of caveats, including that:

  • text in quoted replies "may remain" beyond the chosen deadline
  • messages forwarded to chats where disappearing messages are turned off will not be deleted
  • there is no protection against screenshots of messages set to disappear.

"Only use disappearing messages with trusted individuals," WhatsApp warns.

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

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