WhatsApp will let you hide your 'online' status in new privacy update

The instant messaging service has unveiled three new privacy features, with the aim of making chats "as private as face-to-face conversations."

Silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to a screen projection of Whatsapp logo in this picture illustration (photo credit: REUTERS)
Silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to a screen projection of Whatsapp logo in this picture illustration
(photo credit: REUTERS)

WhatsApp is rolling out new features aimed at helping protect users' information and privacy, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced on Tuesday.

Users will now be able to control who can see when they are online. While the ability to hide the 'last seen' status was introduced years ago, there was no option to turn off online visibility – until now.

In addition, the free messaging and VOIP service will allow users to hide the message announcing when a user has left a group chat, according to the founder of Facebook, which acquired the messaging app in 2014.

The final feature added in the new update tweaks messages and photos that are set to 'view once' in order to prevent screenshots by the receiving user.

 Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (credit: REUTERS) Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (credit: REUTERS)

Writing in a Facebook post, Zuckerberg said WhatsApp's aim is to make chats "as private as face-to-face conversations."

"We'll keep building new ways to protect your messages and keep them as private and secure as face-to-face conversations," he wrote.

"We'll keep building new ways to protect your messages and keep them as private and secure as face-to-face conversations."

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg

WhatsApp privacy complaints

WhatsApp has been under fire in the past for attempting to learn more about its users by asking them to agree to new terms of service and a new privacy policy, which may open the door to invasive advertising practices, industry analysts told The Jerusalem Post last year.

After Facebook acquired WhatsApp, it gave users the option to opt out of data sharing between the two apps. However, this time, no choice is given. If you don’t want to accept the terms that come into effect on February 8, you have only one option: Delete WhatsApp from your phone. The change may lay the groundwork for Facebook to start serving advertising on the WhatsApp platform.

WhatsApp has more than 2 billion users around the globe. In Israel as in other places, it is an ubiquitous and indispensable tool. A recent survey by GlobalWebIndex found that about 81% of Israelis said they had used WhatsApp in the past month, more than any other social media platform

Zev Stub contributed to this report.