Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge
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 on the platform, and sets the feature to “My Contacts” by default instead.
It’s a new security feature. Got this reply from support today. If the person has not got your number in their contacts, or you haven’t sent one message between you, last seen/online is no longer visible. pic.twitter.com/qLPtC6rPOA
— PsyColette (@NiHaolain) December 7, 2021
In a post on Twitter, 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.
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), WABetaInfo points out that some third-party apps actually exploit this feature.
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.
This isn’t the only change WhatsApp is making to its “last seen” status. In November, WABetaInfo found that the messaging app began testing an option, called “My Contacts Except … which lets users hide their status from certain contacts. WhatsApp has also been working to bolster user privacy by introducing an option to make its disappearing messaging feature the default.