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New WhatsApp feature blocks profile picture screenshots in beta version

While it aims to fill the loophole that presented itself after WhatsApp blocked downloading of profile pictures in 2019, the new feature itself lacks some provisions that could have left users better informed about potential dangers.

Whatsapp has introduced a new privacy feature that blocks users from taking screenshots of others’ profile pictures. The feature, which is currently available on the beta version for Android  of the app, will be rolled out to more people in the coming weeks, WABetaInfo reported. With this new feature, users attempting to take a screenshot of a profile picture will receive a notification stating that the action is blocked.

This is the latest attempt by WhatsApp to enhance user privacy and consent by deterring unauthorized access and sharing of personal photos. There are significant privacy concerns with one’s personal photos being available to share — risks of impersonation by malicious actors being chief among them.  An example of this was reported by Medianama where employees of WebEngage and CleverTap were nearly scammed by fraudsters impersonating their bosses on WhatsApp. The scammers used the WhatsApp profile pictures of WebEngage’s co-founder to impersonate him and then proceeded to ask his employees to transfer money to them in the form of Apple iTunes gift cards.


Similar attempts in the past:

Whatsapp has previously made attempts to prevent the downloading and sharing of profile pictures without the owner’s consent. In 2019, WhatsApp removed the option that allowed users to download and save others’ profile photos. However, with the option to screenshot the profile picture still being available, users could continue to store and share another user’s profile picture without their consent. The new feature has been built to address this major loophole and address user’s privacy concerns. However, there are limitations to this feature too. The feature does not address the issue of pictures of public figures, that are easily available, being used for impersonation and fraud. Further, there is also no feature to inform a user that an attempt was made to screenshot their profile picture and alert them of potential danger. Users could still take a photo using a secondary device or camera to capture the profile photo WhatsApp has yet to address how this issue is to be resolved. It has also not announced the timeline for the release of this feature.

Additionally, it was reported that WhatsApp has also been working on a feature which will allow users to set unique usernames for their accounts. This will allow users to not share their phone numbers. WhatsApp’s competitor Signal has recently made this feature widely available.

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