Abruptly on a Twitter post, a user explains that you may not be able to see other people’s statuses on the platform anymore, and also includes an email from what appears to be WhatsApp support that describes the new feature.
“We’re making it harder for people you don’t know and haven’t chatted with from seeing your last seen and online presence on WhatsApp,” the email reads.
Then the “My Contacts” option for your “last seen” status was already available, but it’s never been the default on the app. It’s also worth noting that WhatsApp already has a “Nobody” option as well, preventing all users from seeing your status. Your status on WhatsApp lets other contacts know when you were online last, or if you’re currently using the app. While this may seem like a harmless way to keep track of your friends and family (and vice versa), WhatsApp Beta Info points out that some third-party apps exploit this feature.
"To improve the privacy and security of our users, we're making it harder for people you don't know and haven't chatted with [to see] your last seen and online presence on WhatsApp," according to a company support message, first shared on Twitter, then published by WABetaInfo.
It rolled out end-to-end encrypted backups, which can be secured with a password or 64-digit encryption key. And just last week added the option to make disappearing messages the system default. Current time duration options include 24 hours, one week, or 90 days. Privacy has been at the top of WhatsApp's to-do list in 2021. The company early this year introduced a new policy, which, mired by poor communication, prompted a backlash regarding how much personal data is shared with parent company Facebook. WhatsApp eventually began limiting features for those who don't accept, but promised no one's account would be deleted.
WhatsApp is rolling out a new privacy measure that hides your “last seen” status from people you don’t know or haven’t chatted with in the app (via WABetaInfo). Previously, WhatsApp set the feature on “Everyone” by default, allowing anyone on WhatsApp to see your status.
WhatsApp’s new update limits the visibility of your status to the people you’ve added to the platform, and sets the feature to “My Contacts” by default instead.
Before, users had to dig in their settings to manually hide such activity from strangers. Now, the feature is WhatsApp's default. You can still, however, manage who can see when you were last online. Visit Settings > Account > Privacy to specify "Everyone," "My Contacts," or "Nobody."
The previously reported "My Contacts Except…" function does not appear to be an option. The update which won't affect conversations with family, friends, or businesses you've previously messaged seems to be aimed at third-party apps that log the "Last Seen" and online status of selected contacts.
These apps can aggregate the statuses of certain users, which may enable some to keep a little too close of an eye on others using the platform. Turning on the “My Contacts” options prevents third-party apps from logging your online status, as an app isn’t considered one of your contacts, and therefore, it won’t be able to see your status. The messaging platform has gone through several changes recently, including rolling out the ability to send disappearing photos and videos on WhatsApp and now being a native app on Windows 11.