In a welcome but belated effort to help you reclaim some of that precious time you call “life,” as well as part of efforts to prevent the spread of misinformation through the messaging service, Facebook-owned WhatsApp has finally gotten around to adding a new privacy setting that lets you decide who can add you to groups.
The new feature lets you select one of three options: “Nobody,” “my contacts,” and “everyone.”
“Nobody” is where the real power lies, as any group that invites you will need your permission to be added, while “my contacts” means only users that you have in your address book can add you to a group. “Everyone,” as you probably realize, is pretty much a free-for-all and leaves things as they were pre-update.
The new privacy setting started rolling out to users globally on Wednesday, April 3, and will reach the entire WhatsApp community in the coming weeks — just make sure you have the latest version of the app loaded on your phone.
To access the feature, go to WhatsApp’s Settings, tap Account > Privacy > Groups and then select one of the three aforementioned options.
If you go ahead and select “nobody,” anyone adding you to a group will be prompted to send a private invite through an individual chat, giving you the chance to decide whether or not to join the group, WhatsApp said in a post explaining the new feature. You’ll then be given three days to accept or decline the invite before it expires.
The rollout of WhatsApp’s new privacy setting comes amid growing concern about how the popular messaging app is being used to spread misinformation, as well as its use by political activists to launch campaigns by adding large numbers of people to groups without their consent.
In the run-up to elections in Brazil in 2018, for example, campaigners added masses of people to WhatsApp groups after using software that scraped Facebook for citizens’ phone numbers, the BBC reported, with as many as 300,000 spam messages able to be sent in one go. WhatsApp claims that 120 million people among Brazil’s population of 209 million use its app.