Whassat, Whatsapp?


  • Made In Malaysia
  • Friday, 07 Nov 2014

"HEY, what's this?" said one friend, peering at her phone.

I look away from green beyond the car window and she points to the Whatsapp chat on her screen.

For longtime users, the difference is probably immediately obvious; bright blue ticks have replaced the two gray ones that usually appear to the right of every line.

"Maybe it's a new aesthetic," I offer, and we say no more on the matter as the 3G signal gives way to GPRS on Bukit Tinggi.

After an Internet-free traipse around the tranquil Japanese Garden and the loudly-painted Colmar Tropicale, we make our way back to the city in high spirits.

And at some point on the Karak highway, messages start flooding our phones. Panicked ones.

Curiously, most were on the same subject.

As it turns out, the messaging app had quietly introduced a feature that addressed what users had wanted to know for years: "How can I tell if someone has read my message?"

On their site, Whatsapp left no room for doubt with their clearly worded FAQ section.

Yes folks, those two blue check marks next to your Sent message means the recipient has read it.

And in a particular stroke of genius, a tap on any message you send pulls up the Info option, which shows you the exact time someone laid eyes on your missive.

As they say - careful what you wish for, you just might get it.

Privacy-conscious friends were understandably freaking out over the all-too transparent information.

"What's the other thing - Telegram? But you cannot turn off the Last Seen feature on that!" one wailed.

Some felt they were stuck between a rock and a hard place, given Whatsapp's ubiquity in comparison to other messaging platforms.

Others bemoaned the loss of the old and obsolete reason of "not having seen" a message they did not feel like responding to immediately, if at all.

It was the end of an era.

Thankfully, the omniscient and omnipotent "They" - you know, the sort that sit around and Say all day - know there's always a third way.

A friend, who goes by the handle @lightyoruichi on Twitter, figured out the solution for anyone who wanted to rage against the dying of the light (gray ticks).

The instructions are as follows: "When you receive your message, let it receive. Don't swipe on the notification, but go into the Whatsapp app without the convo itself. And then, go Airplane (mode). Read. Exit. Turn off Airplane (mode).'

And there you go!

Some were quick to express their gratitude, but many others felt that it was too much effort to be paranoid.

It's almost too easy to agree with the latter.

For one, so much of our personal information is already a free-for-all on the Internet.

Even any old restaurant bill - which you used your credit card to pay for - has quite a wealth of detail for the reaping, should it be tossed aside on the table as you leave the venue.

I may not be the biggest fan of Whatsapp's new feature, but there truly is a greater dearth of privacy in many more places, with much more sensitive information at stake.

And the real question now is: with what little privacy we have being further eroded, what can we do to better protect our personal information?

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