WhatsApp said today it is rolling out changes to its messaging app to give users more control over how they engage with groups, addressing one of the most pronounced privacy issues on the platform.
The Facebook-owned service said users will now have an additional option in their settings to control who can add them to groups.
Users can choose between “Nobody” — preventing anyone from adding them to a group; “My Contacts” — allowing people whose phone numbers they have saved in their phone; and “Everyone” — if they don’t have any reservations about random people adding them to different groups.
When users attempt to add someone who has barred anybody from adding them to a group, they will be required to send a private message to the person with an invite link. The person can then decide whether they wish to join the group through the invite link, which will be active for 72 hours.
The option to control this feature is available in Settings > Account > Privacy > Groups, WhatsApp said, adding that it is beginning to roll out this option to some users starting today. Users worldwide will get this feature in the coming weeks, it added, and will require the most updated version of WhatsApp to access this new feature.
The roll out of this new option comes as a growing number of users have expressed frustration at spamming and unwanted messages they have to deal with after people add them to groups without their consent.
Is there a way to stop random people from adding me to WhatsApp groups? The app is unusable to me due to this…
— Carl Pei (@getpeid) March 9, 2017
This oversight from WhatsApp gained more prominence in recent months, as many nations head to elections and political organizations have been known to add people to as many groups as possible to propagate their messages. At a roundtable in New Delhi in February this year, WhatsApp representatives said they had taken notes of the issue and were exploring ways to address this.
“As people turn to groups for important conversations, users have asked for more control over their experience,” the company said in a statement today.
In recent months, the company has rolled out many changes, including enforcing a limit on the number of messages a user could forward on the app, as well as ramping up its spam detection tools to weed out fraudulent users.