WhatsApp is testing this useful new privacy option — here's how it works

How to tell if you've been blocked on WhatsApp
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Update: WhatsApp's latest big update is adding emoji reactions, better file-sharing and larger group chats. Here's what you need to know

The WhatsApp ‘Last Seen’ tag is certainly a handy feature, telling you when a contact was last active on the app. 

If you see that someone was last seen at 4 am, say, then if you’re looking to message them at 7:30, you can reason that you likely won’t hear back for a while. It can also help you figure out if it’s a socially acceptable time to message someone if they’re in a different country without figuring out the actual time zone difference.

If they have Read Receipts turned off, it’s also a handy way of figuring out if your important message has been seen and ignored, or they just haven’t read it yet.

But if you’d rather share your WhatsApp usage patterns with the world, there’s currently not too much flexibility. You can currently limit your ‘Last Seen’ status to nobody, everybody or just your contacts.

That is changing in the latest WhatsApp beta for iOS — version 22.9.0.70, which is currently accessible via TestFlight and will presumably roll out to all users at a later date. First spotted by WABetaInfo (opens in new tab), the build adds a new “My Contacts Except…” option in the ‘Last Seen’ section of the app. You can then pick and choose which contacts don’t get to see when you were last online. 

WhatsApp's new Last Seen options

(Image credit: WABetaInfo)

Although this is now available to certain iPhone beta testers, this isn’t an iOS exclusive. The site notes that the change was introduced to Android beta 2.22.8.9 some weeks ago (opens in new tab), and this update is just bringing parity to iOS.

Curiously, the update also allows you to hide your profile photo and information from contacts, too. This, to me, seems less useful given your contacts presumably know who you are and what you look like, but there we are. This would be far more useful for Read Receipts, but that remains a binary choice across the board: it’s either on or off for everyone. 

Still, more privacy options are undoubtedly a good thing, and it’s nice to see that Meta is continuing to work on updates like this alongside its bigger vision to make WhatsApp more community focused. Last week, WhatsApp unveiled 5 big upgrades coming to group chats, including emoji responses and an increase in the maximum transfer size.

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.