Why you shouldn’t treat the ‘View Once’ mode for media on WhatsApp as a privacy feature
WhatsApp recently introduced a new View Once mode for pictures sent on the app, but here’s why the company doesn’t prevent users from taking screenshots or notify when one is taken.
WhatsApp recently introduced a new feature on the latest beta version of the app called View Once mode for messages, allowing users to send photos from the app to their contacts that can only be opened once. The feature basically ensures that any media sent by a user is only stored until it is opened, then deleted immediately. However, as users have discovered, there is a small caveat to using this new feature – WhatsApp doesn't block users from taking a screenshot of your media, or alert you when a contact attempts to do so.
However, this functionality appears to be working as intended, according to noted WhatsApp feature leaker WABetaInfo. In a blog post, the leaker notes that the decision to not block or notify users when a screenshot of view-once media is taken, was probably done to protect the user.
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Here's why it makes sense for WhatsApp to release the feature without the ability to prevent screenshots, and not inform users when a screenshot is taken.
It is not always easy to detect screenshots on smartphones
There are ways of detecting screenshots on a smartphone – these include checking if buttons were pressed or if a new file was added to the screenshots directory and so on. Some of these are used by apps like Snapchat to inform your contact if they took a screenshot while chatting with them. However, there is one major flaw with this system. On a platform like Android, some users root their phones, allowing them to take screenshots without informing the app, while other apps exist that simply record the entire screen without the knowledge of the app. In such a situation, users would not be notified.
Trusting your contact is an important factor
While chatting with a contact, it is important to note that there are ways for the other party to record the screen without ever informing WhatsApp – these include using another smartphone or video recorder to take a video of the content or take photographs in case a message was shared. As a result, it boils down to how much you trust the other user while communicating with them. If WhatsApp were to claim that no screenshot was taken, it would mislead the user into a false sense of security. This is why it is more prudent for the app to inform users that the media can be captured by the other party.
Why should users treat the View Once mode as a privacy feature?
The simple answer is you shouldn't use View Once mode as a privacy feature. Instead, as the developers of the Signal Private Messenger app (which introduced this feature on the app back in January 2020) note, it should ideally be used as a method of keeping your chat tidy, just like the disappearing chats feature. The view once mode for media will ensure that those files will not clog up your precious device storage, which is quite a useful feature for an app like WhatsApp.