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WhatsApp Rolls Out ‘Chat Lock’ for Private Conversations; Know All About the New Feature

Mark Zuckerberg, Meta’s CEO, confirmed the new feature in a Facebook post. (Image: Facebook/Mark Zuckerberg)

Meta, the parent company of WhatsApp, has introduced Chat Lock as an additional security feature, aiming to provide users with an extra layer of protection for their private conversations

WhatsApp, the messaging app owned by Meta, unveiled on Monday its new feature called ‘Chat Lock’, designed to enhance user privacy. This feature securely hides conversations in a password-protected folder, ensuring that notifications do not reveal the sender or message content.

Mark Zuckerberg, founder, chairman and CEO of Meta confirmed the new feature in a Facebook post stating, “They’re hidden in a password protected folder and notifications won’t show sender or message content.”

The Chat Lock feature will relocate a chat thread from the app’s main inbox and transfer it to a dedicated folder accessible only through a password or biometric authentication, such as facial recognition or fingerprint scanning. The new feature ensures enhanced security and privacy for users’ confidential conversations.

As part of its comprehensive privacy package, Meta enables WhatsApp users to encrypt their backups, restrict screenshot capabilities, and enable automatic message disappearance.

UK’s Online Safety Bill

The new feature comes after US social media giant opposed UK’s proposed the Online Safety Bill claiming it would “weaken the privacy” of users worldwide. The UK government’s proposal for tech firms to assist law enforcement agencies in combating child sexual abuse on their platforms has sparked concerns over privacy and surveillance.

WhatsApp was among other messaging services that had issued an open letter demanding an “urgent rethink” of the legislation last month.

“The UK government is currently considering new legislation that opens the door to trying to force technology companies to break end-to-end encryption on private messaging services,” WhatsApp said in an open letter on its blog page dated April 17.

Signed by WhatsApp head Will Cathcart and bosses of other messaging services including Signal and Wire, the letter stated: “We don’t think any company, government or person should have the power to read your personal messages and we’ll continue to defend encryption technology.”

Several industry leaders, including OPTF/Session, Threema, Viber, and Element, have signed a letter opposing the legislation.

The letter argues that the proposed laws could lead to widespread and indiscriminate surveillance of personal messages, affecting various individuals, including friends, family members, journalists, human rights activists, and politicians. It emphasizes that such measures would undermine everyone’s ability to communicate securely and calls for a revision of the legislation to prioritize privacy and security.

The signatories of the letter and industry leaders are urging the UK government to reconsider its approach, emphasizing the importance of preserving encryption, protecting privacy, and avoiding mass surveillance of private communications.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak responded to the row stating “will not introduce routine scanning of private communication”.

While the state does “support strong encryption, this cannot come at the cost of public safety”, Sunak’s spokesman had said.

(With inputs from AFP)

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