The new update will be similar to Telegram’s “secret chat” feature.
Users of the popular messaging service WhatsApp may soon be able to send text and images that disappear after a self-determined time period. The feature was spotted in the recently released public beta version of WhasApp – dubbed v2.19.275 – by the technology website WABetaInfo. The self-destruct option was uncovered by combing through the code of a beta version of WhatsApp.
By enabling the option to redact messages forever after a fixed time frame has lapsed, WhatsApp will be hopeful that it can draw into the user base of rivals like Telegram, which are the preferred platform for sharing sensitive information that self-destructs from users’ phones.
Telegram’s “secret chat” feature lets users send messages to each other, but which are programmed to disappear from their devices after a fixed time period. To ensure the sanctity of users’ data, the messaging platform insists that it does not store “secret chats” on its servers. Moreover, the app restricts users from taking screenshots or forwarding such messages, ensuring that its digital footprint is completely erased.
According to Telegram’s terms of service, “All secret chats in Telegram are device-specific and are not part of the Telegram cloud. This means you can only access messages in a secret chat from their device of origin. They are safe for as long as your device is safe in your pocket.”
For Facebook-owned WhatsApp, the introduction of a “secret chat” option will come on the back of a similar feature launching on its sibling app, Facebook Messenger. However, in the case of Messenger, the secret chat feature only encrypts end-to-end messages between two users. Such encryption of text and multimedia messages is default on WhatsApp.
The new feature uncovered by WABetaInfo shows that WhatsApp will support self-destructing messages in group chats. The time frame for the disappearances of messages in WhatsApp groups will vary from five seconds from the time of sending, to one hour. Further, group admins will have the power to prevent replies from other members.
Previously, some third-party apps on WhatsApp had the option of sending self-destructing messages. However, with the platform cracking down on apps that were undermining the privacy of users, self-destructing messages were soon outlawed from the platform. WhatsApp boasts a user base of over 1.5 million users.