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WhatsApp issues stark warning over disappearing messages feature

WhatsApp is advising users to only use its disappearing messages feature with ‘trusted individuals’ while pointing out the tool isn’t the get-out-of-jail-free card many hoped for.

The feature, which is about to roll out, will see messages and media disappear into the ether seven days after being sent to the recipient. However, even though this might seem like a good way to ensure the evidence of a controversial or regrettable message doesn’t live long to tell the tale, that’s not the case, WhatsApp says.

The firm, which has been testing a disappearing messages feature for over a year now, points out there are several ways the potentially incriminating message could be preserved. The firm writes:

Note: Only use disappearing messages with trusted individuals. For example, it’s possible for someone to:

  • Forward or take a screenshot of a disappearing message and save it before it disappears.
  • Copy and save content from the disappearing message before it disappears.
  • Take a photo of a disappearing message with a camera or other device before it disappears.

The Facebook-owned company has posted an explainer on its support website, detailing how the feature will work, but it’s clear this feature doesn’t offer people the opportunity to send whatever they want with impunity. Perhaps that’s for the best, if you know what I mean.

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WhatsApp says the feature will apply to all messages in a group or individual chat, rather than simply an individual message.

The company adds: “You can send messages that disappear on WhatsApp by enabling disappearing messages. Once enabled, new messages sent in the individual or group chat will disappear after seven days. The most recent selection controls all messages in the chat. This setting won’t affect messages you previously sent or received in the chat. In an individual chat, either user can turn disappearing messages on or off. In a group chat, only group admins can turn disappearing messages on or off.”

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