In case you’ve been living under a rock, the Meta-owned messaging platform WhatsApp has a little feature called the ‘last seen’ status that lets you see the last time another user was online and vice versa. Commonly used to stalk exes, see if you’ve been ghosted or tell when that joke you just told your best friend really didn’t land.
Now, you can customise your last seen to be visible to anyone with your number, only to those whose numbers you also have or to nobody at all, but by default it’s toggled to the “Everyone” option. Now WhatsApp’s switching that up.
The messaging app isn’t making any dramatic changes to the feature, but it is changing the default setting or last seen to ‘My Contacts’. If you suddenly can’t see the last seen statuses for contacts you’ve previously been able to, it probably means they don’t have your number saved. Ouch.
A user on Twitter reached out to WhatsApp because they suddenly couldn’t see several last seen statuses. WhatsApp responded explaining that the default setting had been change to “improve privacy and security “, “making it harder for people you don’t know and haven’t chatted with from seeing your last seen and online presence” on the app.
Additionally, as WABetaInfo points out, several third-party apps actually exploit the last seen status to monitor user activity. Fortunately, because these apps don’t count as contacts, having the default last seen setting changed to contacts only locks them out.
That last point is particularly worth noting. Even with the whole Facebook/Meta ad-tracking apocalypse WhatsApp’s otherwise managed to have a pretty good reputation regarding privacy. This was particularly due to its end-to-end encryption, though even that’s been thrown into suspicious territory recently.