WhatsApp Gains Support for Live Location Sharing

Popular messaging app WhatsApp was today updated with a new feature that's designed to allow WhatsApp users to share their location in real-time with family and friends.

Live Location through WhatsApp features end-to-end encryption and includes tools to allow users to specify who they share their location with and for how long.


To use Live Location, WhatsApp users need to open a chat with a person or group, select the "Location" feature in the attach button, and then choose the new option to "Share Live Location." When selecting the share option, users can select an amount of time the location sharing feature will last before expiring.

The person on the other end will be able to see the user's real-time location on a map, and if, in a group chat, more than one person shares their location, multiple locations will be displayed on the same map.

Live Location is available on both iOS and Android devices, and it will be rolling out to the WhatsApp apps "in the coming weeks."

WhatsApp can be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link]


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WhatsApp Video and Photo Messages Reportedly Blocked in China

China has reportedly started blocking some features of the WhatsApp messaging service, as authorities continue to tighten controls over the country's internet.

WhatsApp users began reporting problems with sharing content on the chat platform yesterday, with many unable to send video and pictures. Despite initial fears of a communications-wide ban of the Facebook-owned service, text-based messages within the app appear to be unaffected.

WhatsApp's reach in China is small compared to homegrown chat service WeChat, which boasts 900 million users but is routinely subjected to state monitoring and censorship. However, Chinese users concerned about privacy have increasingly turned to the encrypted WhatsApp platform to communicate with friends and relatives as well as businesses abroad.

Facebook and Instagram have remained blocked by China's Great Firewall since 2009 and 2014, respectively. Encrypted messaging service Telegram was also blocked inside China after it became popular with the country's human rights lawyers, while several domestic VPNs – which are commonly used to evade censorship and access services abroad – were recently shut down after authorities said they were unauthorized to run.

China appears to be clamping down on potential sources of politically sensitive news as it prepares for a major leadership reshuffle in Beijing. The event happens every five years and often leads to a tightening of online controls to project an air of stability in the country. The death of jailed Nobel peace prize laureate Liu Xiaobo last week also spurred censors into action, with commemorations on WeChat reportedly blocked by authorities.

(Via The New York Times.)

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Tags: China, WhatsApp

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Latest WhatsApp Update Brings Pinned Chat and Multi-Format File Sharing Features

The latest update to WhatsApp Messenger rolled out on iOS on Sunday and adds a couple of notable new features, one of which is the ability to share files of any type within conversations.

Version 2.17.40 of WhatsApp is the first to allow any file type to be sent using the Document option in the Share menu. Previously files were limited to PDF documents, but now the only limitation is file size, which is officially 100MB.

It's also now possible to pin chats to the top of the chat list to quickly find important conversation threads. To pin a chat, swipe right on the chat and tap the pin icon. Additionally, users can now tap and hold on groups of multiple photos they've received to quickly forward or delete them.

Version 2.17.40 also includes a couple of new hidden features that still appear to be in testing, suggesting they'll soon become public in a forthcoming update. According to WABetaInfo, they include in-line YouTube video playback with Picture-in-Picture support and an emoji search function.

Finally, a new Recall feature is expected to be enabled in 2.17.40+ that allows users to delete texts, images, videos, GIFs, documents, quoted messages, and even Status replies after they have been sent, as long as the Recall feature is used within a five-minute window.

WhatsApp is a free download for iPhone from the App Store. [Direct Link]

Tag: WhatsApp

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WhatsApp Gains Photo Filters and Automatic Albums, ‘Recall’ Feature Reportedly Imminent

WhatsApp gained a handful of new features this week, including photo filters, quick replies, and automatic albums in chat threads.

The photo filters in WhatsApp 2.17.30 are similar to those found in Snapchat and Instagram: users can now add one of five filters to photos, videos, and GIFs before sending, enabling them to enhance the look or correct poor lighting. Pop, black and white, cool, chrome, and film filters can be selected with a simple swipe up on the image.

Image via TechCrunch

In addition, WhatsApp now automatically generates album views when multiple images or videos are sent consecutively in the same chat window, thereby avoiding the usual stream of individual images that clog up a thread.

Elsewhere, users can reply to a specific message in a thread by swiping across it, which takes it to the bottom of the chat window where they can type a response. WhatsApp says the feature is particularly useful during fast-moving group chats when a particular message can get quickly lost higher up the thread.

Finally, WhatsApp is said to be readying a much-requested hidden "unsend" feature in another imminent update to the app.

According to fan site WABetaInfo, Whatsapp will enable "Recall" in version 2.17.30+, allowing users to delete texts, images, videos, GIFs, documents, quoted messages, and even Status replies after they have been sent, as long as the Recall feature is used within a five-minute window.

WhatsApp is a free download for iPhone from the App Store. [Direct Link]

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Facebook Fined $122 Million for Misleading EU Regulators Over WhatsApp Deal

The European Commission has fined Facebook $122 million for misleading regulators over its 2014 acquisition of WhatsApp. The announcement came on Thursday in a press release in which the Commission said that the social media company had provided "incorrect or misleading information" when it told regulators that it would be unable to link the profiles of users on WhatsApp and Facebook.

However, WhatsApp announced in 2016 that it would start sharing some user data, including phone numbers, with Facebook, contradicting the earlier claim. In its press release, the Commission said that Facebook knew the data crossover was technically feasible in 2014 when it bought WhatsApp for $22 billion, but that it had stated otherwise when asked by merger regulators.

"When Facebook notified the acquisition of WhatsApp in 2014, it informed the Commission that it would be unable to establish reliable automated matching between Facebook users' accounts and WhatsApp users' accounts. It stated this both in the notification form and in a reply to a request of information from the Commission. However, in August 2016, WhatsApp announced updates to its terms of service and privacy policy, including the possibility of linking WhatsApp users' phone numbers with Facebook users' identities.

The Commission has found that, contrary to Facebook's statements in the 2014 merger review process, the technical possibility of automatically matching Facebook and WhatsApp users' identities already existed in 2014, and that Facebook staff were aware of such a possibility."
The ruling by the Commission will not have any impact on its decision to rubber stamp the acquisition, and remains separate from data protection investigations that are currently ongoing, the EC explained in the press release. The separate investigations involve historical data collection of WhatsApp users in Germany, the U.K., and Italy. Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said:
"Today's decision sends a clear signal to companies that they must comply with all aspects of EU merger rules, including the obligation to provide correct information. And it imposes a proportionate and deterrent fine on Facebook. The Commission must be able to take decisions about mergers' effects on competition in full knowledge of accurate facts."
Facebook responded to the decision in a statement published on its website on Thursday. The company said it had "acted in good faith" during its communications with the EC, and claimed that it had attempted to provide "accurate information at every turn".

"The errors we made in our 2014 filings were not intentional and the Commission has confirmed that they did not impact the outcome of the merger review," the statement reads. "Today's announcement brings this matter to a close."


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WhatsApp Quietly Extends Encryption to iCloud Backups of Chat Logs

WhatsApp has bolstered the security of the iCloud backup feature in its messaging platform, in an attempt to protect archived chat logs from being accessed in a readable form (via TechCrunch).

WhatsApp has offered end-to-end encryption on its messaging service for some time, but that encryption did not previously extend to iCloud backups of messages. Given that Apple holds the encryption keys for iCloud, a subpoena of Apple or an unauthorized iCloud hack could potentially allow access to WhatsApp messages backed up there.


However, WhatsApp has moved to prevent that possibility by also pre-encrypting the backup files. "When a user backs up their chats through WhatsApp to iCloud, the backup files are sent encrypted," a WhatsApp spokesperson told Forbes, confirming the change.

WhatsApp quietly added the encryption to WhatsApp iCloud backups late last year, however the change only came to light last week when professional hackers claimed to be able to circumvent the security measure.

According to Russian-based Oxygen Forensics, third-party hacking tools are able to download the encrypted WhatsApp data backed up to iCloud and then generate an encryption key to decrypt the data using the associated SIM card. The tools could potentially be used by police with access to a phone where the WhatsApp account has been deactivated but the encrypted messages are still stored in iCloud. WhatsApp has yet to comment on the claims.

The encryption debate has been reignited in recent weeks on both sides of the Atlantic. FBI director James Comey revealed earlier this month that his agency had been unable to access the data on more than 3,000 mobile devices in the first half of the fiscal year, despite having legal authority to avail themselves of the contents.

A recent statement by U.S. senator Dianne Feinstein also appeared to confirm that the government had used $900,000 of public money to pay for the third-party tools to unlock the iPhone used by the San Bernardino terrorist. No information of relevance was found on the device, the FBI later revealed.

Meanwhile in the U.K., government home secretary Amber Rudd recently claimed that it is "completely unacceptable" that authorities cannot gain access to messages stored on mobile applications protected by end-to-end encryption, such as WhatsApp. Rudd said she would be discussing the situation with technology companies in the near future.

Since that time, a draft technical paper prepared by the U.K. government has been leaked that contains proposals related to the removal of encryption from private communications. The paper reveals that companies would be required to provide the raw data "in an intelligible form" without "electronic protection" within one working day. Discussions about the feasibility of the proposals are said to be ongoing.

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WhatsApp Users Can Now Ask Siri to Read Out Their Latest Messages

WhatsApp users on iOS can now ask Siri to read to them their latest messages when they go handsfree, following the latest update to the chat app.

Version 2.17.2 brings the feature to users running at least iOS 10.3 on their devices, along with some other tweaks and updates to the messaging platform.

In the My Updates screen, it's now possible to select multiple statuses at once and forward or revoke them, and the old Voice Call icon has been replaced with a "+" icon, which when tapped displays a list of contacts for making both voice and video calls.

Elsewhere, the two-step verification interface has been redesigned to make it easier to set up, while the Group Info, Contact Info, and Calls sections have also received interface overhauls to make them simpler to use. The camera now also remembers its last state of usage.

Lastly, support for the Persian language has been added to the chat service.

WhatsApp is available as a free download on the App Store for iPhone. [Direct Link]

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WhatsApp Likely to Launch Peer-to-Peer Payments in India Within 6 months

Mobile chat platform WhatsApp could be set to roll out peer-to-peer payments in India, which is home to its largest market with over 200 million users (via TechCrunch).

According to India-based media company The Ken, WhatsApp plans to use a cross-bank payment system called UPI, which is backed by the government, to enable payments between users within the next six months.

WhatsApp has neither confirmed nor denied the claim, but there are precedents for the messaging service to move into mobile payments. During a visit to the country in February, WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton met with India's IT minister and said the company was "in the early stages" of exploring how it might incorporate payment systems into the platform.

Last week, Swedish-based phone number lookup service Trucaller introduced user-to-user payments in India via a tie-in with ICICI Bank, which makes use of the same UPI system WhatsApp is said to be integrating.

Facebook has had a payments system in its Messenger app for some time in the U.S., but WhatsApp is far more popular in India and is already being used there as an e-commerce portal despite not yet offering any features that explicitly support the practice.

Samsung launched Samsung Pay in India for select Samsung Galaxy series devices last month, after it partnered up with Axis, HDFC, ICIC, SBI and Standard Chartered banks, and embraced the UPI standard. Apple spoke with the Indian government about introducing Apple Pay back in 2015, while talks with several banks in the country about incorporating the system are said to be ongoing.

Tags: WhatsApp, India

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UK Government Seeking Access to Encrypted Messaging Apps in Wake of London Attack

Amber Rudd, the United Kingdom's home secretary, recently mentioned that it is "completely unacceptable" that the government could not gain access to messages stored on mobile applications protected by end-to-end encryption, such as WhatsApp. Rudd is calling for the UK police and other intelligence agencies to be given access to such apps to thwart any future terrorist plots, coming in the wake of the attack in London last week (via The Guardian).

Rudd's next step is summoning leaders of various technology companies to a meeting with the UK government on March 30 "to discuss what to do." The home secretary mentioned that the government would be willing to pass completely new legislation focusing on encrypted messaging and mobile apps if the talks this Thursday don't go her way. Rudd referred to WhatsApp, and similar apps, as potential "secret places" for terrorists to hide.

But she stressed it was her desire to persuade internet and social media companies to cooperate voluntarily with the government on this and also the posting of extremist material online.

Rudd added: “It is completely unacceptable. There should be no place for terrorists to hide.

“We need to make sure that organizations like WhatsApp, and there are plenty of others like that, don’t provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other.”
Rudd's focus on WhatsApp is spurned by information that Khalid Masood -- the individual behind the London attacks outside Parliament -- used the Facebook-owned messaging app just minutes before the attack. While police believe Masood worked alone, they are seeking as much information about him as possible, including what or who he might have messaged through WhatsApp. While the police know Masood opened WhatsApp before the attacks, it is unknown whether or not he sent or received any messages.

In a statement, WhatsApp itself said that it was "horrified" by the events in London and would be "cooperating with law enforcement" as events proceed. The situation in the United Kingdom has already drawn parallels to the Apple-FBI dispute that lasted a few months last year, with Rudd directly mentioning Apple CEO Tim Cook at one point in an interview with the BBC.
Tim Cook, the chief executive of Apple which also uses end-to-end encryption, has previously said it would be "wrong" for governments to force Apple to "build a back door" into products. But Ms Rudd said: "I would ask Tim Cook to think again about other ways of helping us work out how we can get into the situations like WhatsApp on the Apple phone."
Apple, and those that side with the company, argued last year that it would be a slippery slope to place a backdoor into iOS for the sole purpose of assisting the government in its anti-terrorism measures. The company said that a "master key" would be able to get information from any iPad and iPhone, despite the FBI saying that all it wanted was key information from the iPhone 5c at the center of the debate.

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WhatsApp Announces New ‘Status’ Feature for Sharing Videos and Photos That Expire After 24 Hours

Following in the footsteps of Snapchat and Instagram, Facebook-owned WhatsApp today announced the launch of "Status," a new feature that's designed to let users share videos, photos, and GIFs that expire each day.

The Status addition to WhatsApp is essentially identical to the "Stories" feature in Instagram and Snapchat, both of which allow users to share daily life updates with friends and family that expire after 24 hours.

With WhatsApp Status, WhatsApp users can use the in-app camera to share photos or videos that can be annotated with emoji, text snippets, and drawings. Status updates can be shared with all contacts, rather than just individuals or specific groups, but there are also options to choose who is able to see what.


Through the new Status tab, WhatsApp users can view all of the updates that their address book contacts have shared on the app and reply privately to updates. All Status updates expire after a 24 hour period.

WhatsApp is launching Status to celebrate its eighth anniversary. The new feature is rolling out to WhatsApp users starting today and should be available soon for all iPhone, Android, and Windows Phone users.

WhatsApp can be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link]


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