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WhatsApp introduces default disappearing messages feature

WhatsApp has just ushered in a controversial new feature that would see messages automatically deleted after a preset amount of time had passed.

A new feature has just arrived on WhatsApp that could really shake up the way you use the popular messaging application. Images that would disappear after one view were introduced earlier in the year, but now the same is true for all messages in a chat, which can be set to self-erase by default after a preset period of 24 hours, 7 days, or 90 days. It’s almost like the self-destructing tape from Mission: Impossible, except with fewer pyrotechnics.

Explaining the changes, the official WhatsApp blog explained:

Deciding how long a message lasts should be in your hands. We’ve become accustomed to leaving a digital copy of just about everything we type without even thinking about it. It’s become the equivalent of a note taker following us around making a permanent record of everything we’ve said…

WhatsApp users will now have the option to turn on disappearing messages by default for all new chats. When enabled, all new one-on-one chats you or another person start will be set to disappear at your chosen duration, and we’ve added a new option when creating a group chat that lets you turn it on for groups you create. This new feature is optional and does not change or delete any of your existing chats.

While some users will appreciate the added flexibility of being able to choose how long to keep their messages for, there have been critics too. Andy Burrows, head of child safety online policy at the NSPCC, said, “This poorly thought out design decision will enable offenders to rapidly delete evidence of child abuse, making it even harder for law enforcement to charge offenders and protect children.”

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