WhatsApp Offers New “Disappearing Messages” Option, But Messages Do Not Disappear Completely

WhatsApp Offers New “Disappearing Messages” Option, But Messages Do Not Disappear Completely

By Yehudit Garmaise

   Perhaps following the innovation of Snapchat, in which pictures and messages that are sent are only available for a short time before they become inaccessible, now WhatsApp has followed suit with an option to make chats disappear after seven days.

 WhatsApp users who would like to have their chats automatically deleted after seven days can do the following on their phones:

   First, users should open WhatsApp on their phone, and then select the chat whose messages they would like to keep for only seven days. Then, users should tap the contact person’s name they choose at the top of their phones’ screens. After selecting “Disappearing Messages,” and selecting “on,” the chosen contact person’s messages should disappear after a week.

   Although the “Disappearing Messages” feature may seem to offer what information technology workers call a “data wipe,” forever removing all posts, data experts point out that mostly everything that customers write on their phones and computers can be traced.

  While WhatsApp “doesn’t appear to be trying to intentionally preserve data,” says iOS researcher Jonathan Zdziarski, in a blog, “the record itself is not being purged or erased from the database, leaving a forensic artifact that can be recovered and reconstructed back to its original form.”

   Zdziarski examined disk images taken from WhatsApp’s most recent version, and he determined that the software retains a forensic trace of the chat logs, even after users have deleted them, which can be recovered by anyone with access to a person’s device.

“Sorry, folks, while experts are saying the encryption checks out in WhatsApp, it looks like the latest version of the app tested leaves forensic trace of all of your chats, even after you've deleted, cleared, or archived them. . . even if you Clear All Chats,” wrote iOS researcher, Jonathan Zdziarski, in a recent blog.

   “In fact, the only way to get rid of all traces of [chats,] is to delete the app entirely.”

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