New Delhi: WhatsApp on Wednesday announced a major change in its privacy settings that allows users to decide who can add them to groups. Previously, users could be added to a WhatsApp group without their consent. At present, over 200 million people in the country use WhatsApp, a messaging platform that is used widely across both urban and rural India.
“WhatsApp groups continue to connect family, friends, co-workers, classmates and more. As people turn to groups for important conversations, users have asked for more control over their experience. Today, we’re introducing a new privacy setting and invite system to help you decide who can add you to groups," WhatsApp said in a blog post.
Users can access the privacy settings to select one of three options—“nobody", “my contacts" or “everyone". “Nobody" prevents anyone from adding the user to any group, while “my contacts" allows people who are on the contacts list to add the user to any group. In both cases, the user will receive a private invite through an individual chat message, giving him or her the choice to join the group. The invite expires in three days.
“With these new features, users will have more control over the group messages they receive," WhatsApp added.
The new privacy settings began rolling out to some users from Wednesday, and will be available worldwide in the weeks ahead to those using the latest version of WhatsApp.
Among many other concerns around misinformation and privacy, the Indian government had been asking WhatsApp to ensure consent of users before they are added to group chats.
WhatsApp recently announced the launch of an India-focused fact-checking feature to combat fake news and rumours in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections. Users can now report unconfirmed information or rumours they have received to a WhatsApp number (+91-9643-000-888) and check its authenticity. The initiative comes shortly after Facebook, which owns WhatsApp, took down over 700 pages linked to individuals that it said were associated with the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party for spamming other users.
Last year, WhatsApp faced severe criticism over lynching incidents that allegedly were the result of fake news shared on the platform.
Under pressure to curb fake messages, the US company named Abhijit Bose as the head of WhatsApp India. It also named Komal Lahiri as the grievance officer for India.