Monday, March 10, 2014, 2 mins 48 secs

WhatsApp Privacy Concerns?

Anurag Rath in MobileTech

We all have been using WhatsApp mobile messaging application for quite a long now. And all would agree that its one of the best apps ever developed. It has made messaging fun with lots of features. Not only has it provided feature to send text messages but also image, audio, video & location

All these features make WhatsApp lovable and unique app for most of us. But with all these good things also there exist a loophole in the feature design of the application. Somewhere the privacy of individual user is compromised.

Upon opening a contact in the app, it shows you whether contact is online or not. Fair enough. What about the contact who is not online? The app shows the time when the contact was last in the app. The app delivers the message when the contact comes online. But my point here is, why the last online time has to be shown to others?

Shown in the below image; taken as snapshot for chats with two of my friends Shubh & Arjav. Shubh was online at the time of snapshot and hence the status is shown as “Online”. Whereas Arjav last used this app at 10:53pm and currently not active in the app.

WhatsApp Privacy Concerns

Why the information about when the user was online last has to be shown to me? Although the app can keep this in the server for its usage purpose but it should not be shown to others.

Consider the below scenarios from other online messaging systems. There are many others which can be considered.

1 – Person A is sending a mail to person B using a mail service lets say GMail. And somewhere in the compose mail window GMail shows “B last checked mail yesterday at 9:30 pm”.

2 – Person A is pinging B through GTalk, and the chat window says “B last seen today at 3:30 pm”. This message instead of or along with the usual “B is offline. You can still send this person messages and they will receive them the next time they are online”.

3 – Person A is pinging B through Facebook and the chat window says “B last seen on friday at 5:00 pm”. This message instead of the usual “B isn’t on chat, but you can still send him a message”.

By these scenarios, you might have understood what my point is. Why the other party (sender) should know, when was the last time I used the service. It is applicable to any messaging system, mail, chat or apps like WhatsApp.

Possible Solutions:

WhatsApp guys should either remove this thing, so that the status should be straight forward like Online & Offline (or anything which means the same). And if they believe this is one of their important features, then there should be provision for configuring this option in the Settings pane.

Share your views on this !!

Disclaimer: The complete post is based on my experiences & opinions of WhatsApp. Its not a charge or appeal to WhatsApp team in any way. The behavior stated here is as observed in Android (ICS) for the App Version 2.8.5732 and may not be the same for other versions of the app in same or other OS.

Update: IOs version of WhatsApp has the feature to hide the last online time, and recently the WhatsApp team have announced they would introducing the same for Android App as well.

Anurag Rath

Anurag Rath