WhatsApp making an important change to privacy settings

is working towards introducing a new option that will give users greater control over who is able to see whether they are online or not. In an update to the settings for the Android and iOS versions of its app, WhatsApp is testing new visibility options.

At the moment, there are three options relating to online visibility. It is possible to display when you were “Last seen” to Everyone, My Contacts or Nobody. But the latest beta version of the app shows that this is going to be changing.

WABetaInfo has spotted new privacy settings for the visibility of the “Last seen” data that notifies people of when you were last online. The new options offer far greater control than is currently available, giving users finer-grained control over visibility.

Specifically, there is the new ability to share “Last seen” details with My Contact Except. This gives WhatsApp users a way to a create a blacklist of contacts who are not able to see when they were last online, while continuing to share this information will all other contacts.

Hide and seek

But it does not end there. In addition to the “Last seen” information, the same options can be applied to your profile picture and to your About details. In short, WhatsApp is making it possible to hide potentially revealing data from a limited subset of your contacts without the need to go as far as blocking everyone from seeing this information.

It is hard to say when these new options will make their way to the main release branch of the WhatsApp app, and for now it remains something that can be enjoyed first by beta testers.

Analysis: putting users in control

On the face of it, this might seem like a minor change, but it is significant when you consider that people are now using WhatsApp to connect with friends, family and work colleagues. It makes sense to be able to treat different types of contact differently, and this is precisely what is being made possible.

WhatsApp’s association with Facebook has long made people worried about what this could mean for privacy. Conversely, the app’s long-standing commitment to using end-to-encryption has heartened those who are worried about security, and helped to calm the fears of those with privacy concerns.

With these latest chances, WhatsApp is further demonstrating its commitment to privacy, and this is something that benefits the entire userbase.

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