How Last Seen works now
As the name suggests, Last Seen is a feature that lets WhatsApp users see the last time someone has logged into the app. The feature is available from other chat apps, not just WhatsApp, and it’s something we’ve been taking for granted.
The Last Seen feature can come quite in handy. It can tell you if a loved one has logged in since you’ve sent the last message. Maybe your kids aren’t replying to your messages, but since they’ve just been on WhatsApp, it means they must be ok. Or you can use it to see whether someone is awake or asleep when calling/texting very early or late during the day.
As you might have realized by now, this Last Seen metadata in WhatsApp can also be abused. Stalkers might use it to keep track of their victims’ WhatsApp activity, which can then lead to unwanted disputes.
WhatsApp currently offers three options for managing your Last Seen status. You can choose between “Everyone,” “My Contacts,” and “Nobody.” The latter ensures that nobody knows when you’re on WhatsApp. But if you turn it on, then you will not be able to see anyone else’s Last Seen information.
WhatsApp privacy changes coming to Last Seen
Say you want your exes not to know when you’re online on WhatsApp. But you want to passively check on your parents via their WhatsApp Last Seen status. If you set Last Seen to “Nobody,” your exes will not learn when you’re online, but you won’t see when your parents are online either. The same WhatsApp privacy settings also apply to Profile Photo and About.
Well-known leaker WaBetaInfo discovered that Facebook plans to introduce a fourth option for Last Seen. That’s “My Contacts Except…,” as seen in the screenshot above taken from an iPhone running WhatsApp.
Once this option rolls out to iPhone and Android, you’ll have more granular control over Last Seen data. The privacy feature will come in handy in the exes and parents example above. You can exclude your exes from seeing your Last Seen information with the help of the My Contacts Except option. But you’d leave Last Seen enabled for everyone else. In turn, this lets you check on your parents.
There’s always the nuclear option of blocking contacts on WhatsApp and other chat apps. But you might want to be able to talk to people online without sharing Last Seen and other activity data with them.