WhatsApp is introducing a new privacy feature that hides your “last seen” status from individuals you don’t know or with whom you haven’t communicated in the app (via WABetaInfo). WhatsApp previously set the function to “Everyone” by default, allowing anybody on the app to read your status. WhatsApp’s latest upgrade restricts the display of your status to persons you’ve added to the platform, and instead defaults to “My Contacts.”
A person explains on Twitter that you may no longer be able to read other people’s statuses on the network, and shares an email from what appears to be WhatsApp support that explains the new feature. “We’re making it more difficult for individuals you don’t know and haven’t interacted with on WhatsApp to see your last seen and online presence,” the email adds.
Although the “My Contacts” option for your “last seen” status was already accessible, it was never the app’s default. It’s also worth mentioning that WhatsApp already provides a “Nobody” option that hides your status from all users. Other WhatsApp contacts may see when you were last online or if you’re actively using the service by checking your status. While this may appear to be an innocuous method to keep track of your friends and family (and vice versa), WABetaInfo warns that certain third-party applications take advantage of this function.
These applications may aggregate the statuses of specific users, allowing some to keep a too tight check on others who utilize the site. When you enable the “My Contacts” option, third-party applications won’t be able to track your online status because they aren’t considered contacts and thus won’t be able to access your status.
WhatsApp’s “last seen” status isn’t the only thing that’s changing. WABetaInfo discovered in November that the messaging app was testing a feature named “My Contacts Except…,” which allows users to hide their status from certain contacts. WhatsApp has also worked to improve user privacy by offering a setting that allows users to make the vanishing communications feature the default.