WhatsApp Launches “View Once” Disappearing Photos

WhatsApp is launching a new feature that will allow users to share photos and videos that will disappear after they’ve been seen

Once the recipient receives the message, the “view once” feature will delete it and not save it to the recipient’s phone. WhatsApp says the feature was created to give “users even more control over their privacy

While this feature is not brand new (think Snapchat) some are still concerned that the feature introduces issues and helps child abuse evidence disappear. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) is already in an ongoing dilemma with Facebook, WhatsApp’s parent company, over problems with encrypted messaging.

Encrypted messages create situations where police and investigators can’t see messages that are “in transit,” and that only the sender and recipient can. Auto-deleting messages also mean that phones seized by the authorities would no longer contain evidence.

Alison Trew, senior online safety officer at the charity shared: “This view once feature could put children at even greater risk by giving offenders another tool to avoid detection and erase evidence, when efforts to combat child sexual abuse are already hindered by end-to-end encryption

WhatsApp advertised the new feature as one that can be used by regular consumers for throwaway but still personal photos, for example while trying on clothing and asking a friend how they look, or perhaps for sending a password.

WhatsApp said in a statement: “Not everything we share needs to become a permanent digital record. On many phones, simply taking a photo means it will take up space in your camera roll forever.”

As is the case with other apps like Snapchat, it is possible to take a screenshot of the disappearing photo, which is a way for people to save the photos anyway. The new feature also includes some limitations, including that the photos will not be saved in a phone’s gallery, the media can’t be forwarded, shared, or saved, and the sent photo or video will be automatically deleted if not opened within two weeks of being sent.
 
Additionally, within 7 days of any text that is sent, the message will disappear automatically for both sender and recipient, which presents a legal challenge in the UK, as UK law says that information that relates to “substantive discussions or devisions” need to be kept on record for historical archive.
 
This raises questions about members of the government that use WhatsApp, leading a campaigning firm to accuse some government officials of “government by text.

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