WhatsApp allows users to hide intimate conversations in huge change to messaging app announces Mark Zuckerberg

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The huge change puts WhatsApp at odds with the UK Government’s online safety bill

Meta, which owns messaging app WhatsApp, will allow users to lock and hide messages for intimate conversations. The move puts the popular messaging app and its owner Meta at odds with the Government’s safety bill.

The changes to the messaging app is in direct contrast with the Government’s will to strengthen protection online particularly for children. However, companies such as Meta warn that changes to the law to improve online safety could undermine the privacy of messages.

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The change to allow users to hide conversations will be called Chat Lock. This will remove a chat thread from the app’s regular onscreen inbox and place it into a new, password-protected folder.

You will only be able to open the folder if you know the password or through a biometric such as facial recognition or a fingerprint reading. Meta described the feature as “one more layer of security”, adding that it will protect “your most intimate conversations” and hide notifications from them, even if you have notifications enabled for your general messages.

A growing list of features on the globally-used, encrypted messaging service is just the latest that puts the app at odds with the UK Government’s online safety bill. Meta and other companies have criticised the bill alongside other companies.

UK Government’s online safety bill

The UK Government’s online safety bill will retain privacy while improving protections for children’s safety. Charities including the NSPCC support the bill, the Government added.

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The Government has since insisted that it would not outlaw end-to-end encryptions. Fears for the privacy of users is the main concern for companies like Meta.

Meta’s criticism of the online safety bill

Meta has said the law change would undermine end-to-end encryption. This is a level of security for messages, which means nobody other than the users involved in the conversation are able to see its content.

Meta said it would sooner see British users stopped from using its services altogether than to risk compromising their privacy. Currently, the company allows WhatsApp users to encrypt their backups, block the ability to screenshot and make their messages disappear automatically as part of its privacy package.

Mark Zuckerberg, Meta's chief executive officer, confirmed the new feature in a Facebook post. He said: "New locked chats in WhatsApp make your conversations more private. They're hidden in a password protected folder and notifications won't show sender or message content."

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