A new WhatsApp update seems set to stop people screenshotting their private conversations.
The new feature – which comes as part of a suite of security changes, in line with the app’s commitment to privacy – seems strangely integrated.
It doesn’t appear to block someone taking screengrabs of your chats, perhaps to avoid them being shared with other people, according to WABetaInfo, the blog that first reported on the changes. Instead, it means that you turn on the app’s highest security settings, you won’t be able to take grabs of your own.
The change comes as part of an authentication feature that has been long rumoured but is yet to appear within WhatsApp. That feature allows people to set fingerprint access to conversations, adding a further layer of security so that people can’t get access to your phone and read or send private messages.
However, enabling that fingerprint security feature also turns on the conversation screenshot blocking option, meaning that it isn’t possible to take pictures of your own chats.
It is not clear why the feature works that way, and WABetaInfo expressed confusion about the way it works.
“We do not know why WhatsApp decided to prevent screenshots when fingerprint is enabled, and personally I don’t know if users like the idea,” it wrote in the blog post announcing the discovery.
It is possible for apps to both notify people that things have been grabbed, as with Snapchat’s stories feature. Apps can also ban screenshots entirely – as with Netflix, which stops people from taking screengrabs of its videos – and it appears that is the option that is being enabled within WhatsApp.
The details on the new screenshot blocking come from a very early version of the app that is available to some users on Android. That serves as a testing ground for new features, some of which are changed or removed entirely before they make it out to the public.