WhatsApp has announced a new feature that it says will “protect your most intimate conversations”.
Chat Lock will allow users of the messaging app to take a chat thread from their inbox and put it in a new folder that can only be accessed by a password or biometric information, such as a fingerprint.
Meta, the company’s owner, on Monday, said this would keep users’ conversations behind “one more layer of security” and has already started rolling it out.
The content of messages in notifications will also be automatically hidden, the tech behemoth said.
In a press release, Meta said: “We believe this feature will be great for people who share their phones from time to time with a family member, or in moments where someone else is holding your phone at the exact moment an extra-special chat arrives.
“You can lock a chat by tapping the name of a one-to-one or group and selecting the lock option. To reveal these chats, slowly pull down on your inbox and enter your password or biometric.”
It comes after warnings from WhatsApp that it could face being banned in the UK under the government’s online safety bill.
Will Cathcart, head of WhatsApp parent company Meta, said in late March that the upcoming legislation could weaken the end-to-end encryption that secures messages on the service.
He added that if the government told the company to weaken any security features it would resist, leading to the possibility it could be banned in the UK.
Just last month it signed an open letter with its competitors, including Signal, arguing that the bill poses “an unprecedented threat to the privacy, safety and security of every UK citizen”.
The row is over end-to-end encryption, used by WhatsApp, which allows only the sender and recipient to access the contents of a message.
However, police and law enforcement agencies argue this feature makes it harder to uncover serious wrongdoing, such as child sexual abuse, and want to weaken the feature.
Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Meta, said in a statement on Facebook: “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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