Love or hate it, if you’re reading this, you probably use WhatsApp as your main chat app. The masses decided and there will be no convincing the over 2 billion users to switch allegiances. So, since we’re stuck with Zuckerberg’s app, it’s refreshing to see the improvements being made.
By now we all know that WhatsApp conversations are encrypted – end to end. There’s no way you can miss it, they remind you of that feature with every new conversation you start.
WhatsApp added this feature a little later than its competitors but the added security was received well. The encryption really makes it extremely hard for anyone to snoop in on your conversations. A bit overkill for the chats I would see on your phone right now but sweet nonetheless.
Some misguided reports tried to make it seem like the encryption was somehow compromised but that was false. You can see why that’s incorrect here. However, that’s not to say your activity on WhatsApp is completely hidden to those who would want to know what you’re up to these days.
Last seen status
The Last Seen feature is an essential feature in order to have a non-frustrating experience. Rather than sending a risky text and waiting anxiously for a reply and wondering whether you bricked your shot, you can see when the recipient last opened the app. Then you can breathe a little, knowing they haven’t replied because they have not been in the app.
However, this feature represents one of the privacy loopholes that has plagued our beloved chat app for years. The way WhatsApp implemented this feature is problematic.
For one, they flexed their authoritarian muscles and made it so that you can only see other people’s status if they can see yours. You need to give up your privacy if you want to snoop into those that freely gave up theirs.
This was made worse by the fact that the default option is for you to share your Last Seen with everyone. Including strangers that get your digits in any way. You could literally just type in a random number and if it belonged to someone with a WhatsApp account, you could see their Last Seen status.
This wasn’t helped by the fact that most people don’t even mess around in those settings and so the default remains for the majority.
Guess this is one of the reasons GB WhatsApp has so many fans. You can avoid all this nonsense with that potentially infected knockoff.
Tracking people through Last Seen feature
With only a few lines of code, someone could get your detailed usage patterns. It might not seem like a big deal that someone could know every time you opened WhatsApp but let’s give a little example.
Let’s say you work for a political party and there are suspicions that one of the top guys could be a traitor. There are rumours that he is in discussions with an opposing party leader and is either divulging party secrets or in talks to desert.
One simple way for preliminary checks is to track both men’s WhatsApp usage. The goal being to check for alignment between their usage patterns. These secret conversations could be taking place at odd hours and seeing both guys on WhatsApp at 4am every other day could be a smoking gun.
That would be very useful information and the kicker is that you no longer needed to write the code yourself. There are many apps on the Play Store that can do the tracking for you.
Check out this app’s service description
Last Seen allows its users to:
- See online last seen time of the contacts they monitor
- Track multiple contacts simultaneously
- Get online and offline notifications
- Examine reports handy activity log
WhatsApp is fixing this
The official WhatsApp is being updated to make it so that it now hides your Last Seen from unsaved numbers that you haven’t chatted with in the past. For someone to see your Last Seen or online status, you have to have their number saved in your phone and have texted before.
WhatsApp gave this response when asked about these new privacy features by some users:
To improve the privacy and security of our users, 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.
This will not change anything between you and your friends, family, and businesses who you know or have previously messaged.WhatsApp Support
There’s more, you know the 3 options you had in the Last Seen section: Share with; Everyone, My Contacts or Nobody. They are working on a fourth option, My Contacts Except… So, you can have the discretion to limit what some of those contacts you only interact with occasionally in work circles.
This was long overdue. I’m not close enough to everyone saved in my phone to have them know my ins and outs like that.
I know some snarky GB WhatsApp users can’t believe we are celebrating such features. They have been enjoying these features for years. In my book, they can get all the features first, I don’t mind at all, I won’t be joining them for reasons laid out here.