Two Options That Parents, Caregivers, and Educator Should Be Aware Of Specific to WhatsApp.

May 16, 2023

WhatsApp, which is owned by Meta, is an extremely popular and free communications app with teens that can be used on both the Android and Apple platforms.  

In an attempt to make communications more “private” not only does WhatsApp utilize encryption, but it now also has two other functions that parents, caregivers, and educators need to know about that could become problematic.

Function #1 – “View Once”

The ‘View Once’ feature on WhatsApp allows the user to send photos or videos that can only be viewed once by the recipient.

Here’s how it works – when the recipient opens the message for the first time, the photo or video once viewed automatically disappears without being saved on their phone. This feature is “supposed” to ensures privacy of the message and keeps the content (picture, or video) from being stored.

To use ‘View Once,’ you need to select the image or video you want to share and then tap on the small ‘I’ icon. This sets the media to ‘view once’ mode.

Here’s a YouTube video on how this feature works

If the recipient doesn’t open the photo or video within 14 days, it will expire and disappear from the chat.

However, here is the danger with this feature, it is possible for the recipient to take a screenshot of the image, which will be saved in their photo folder for future viewing or sharing. Unlike other apps that have the same kind of feature, like Snapchat, WhatsApp doesn’t notify you if someone takes a screenshot of your view once photo or video.

Like other so-called ephemeral apps, WhatsApp can now face similar risks, such as the sharing and spreading of sexual or violent images, bullying, and the sharing of adult or inappropriate content.

Function #2 – “Chat Lock”

Chat Lock allows a user to lock specific chats and move them to a separate folder, again very similar to Snapchat’s “For My Eyes Only” feature. This folder has extra security protection with your device password or biometric data like fingerprint or face ID. To lock a chat, simply tap on the chat name and select the lock option. Your chat will then be securely hidden.

One interesting thing about this feature – locked chats won’t show notifications, so the user won’t have to worry about others, like parents, seeing their private messages from the notification bar.

To unlock and access these chats, a user just needs to pull down on their inbox and enter their phone password or use their biometric data. This feature adds an extra layer of privacy and improves the overall security of your personal and group chats.

Like the “View Once”, this feature also makes it possible for the recipient to take a screenshot of the image, which can be saved in their photo folder and then weaponized by sharing at a later date. Unlike other apps that have the same kind of feature, like Snapchat, WhatsApp doesn’t notify you if someone takes a screenshot of your view once photo or video.

Presently, this feature is available on iOS and Android apps, it’s not yet available on the web version of WhatsApp. WhatsApp is working on extending the feature to their web version of their app, so messages on those devices will also be protected.

Here’s a YouTube Video on how it works

To determine if a teen is using Chat Lock on WhatsApp, you can look for the following indicators:

  • If you notice that certain chats are missing from the teen’s main chat list, it could be an indication that they have used Chat Lock to hide those conversations. These hidden chats will be moved to a separate folder accessible only with a password or biometric authentication.
  • If the teen’s WhatsApp notifications no longer display message previews or alerts for specific chats, it might suggest that Chat Lock is being used. When chats are locked, notifications are automatically hidden to maintain privacy.
  • If the teen has enabled an extra layer of security for specific chats, such as requiring a password or biometric data (fingerprint or face ID) to access them, it implies that Chat Lock is being utilized.
  • If you happen to see the teen unlocking and accessing hidden chats by pulling down on the inbox and entering a password or using their biometric data, it confirms their usage of Chat Lock.

Our concern about both of these features – they create a false sense of security and privacy that teens may believe these two functions offer, especially when it comes to the sending of intimate images or videos to others.

One of our mantras – “no matter what the app, social network, or privacy and security features, once you hit the send button you lose control and the content can now become public, permanent, searchable, exploitable, copiable, and shareable” This too applies to these two WhatsApp features. NEVER FORGET THIS RULE!

Digital Food For Thought

The White Hatter

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