WhatsApp

WhatsApp lets you silence unknown callers on the app

WhatsApp

WhatsApp is rolling out a new feature that will help users automatically silence calls from unknown phone numbers on the instant messaging platform. 

Users can access the feature by going to Settings > Privacy > Calls and toggling the button to enable the ‘silence unknown caller’ feature. For now, it appears to be switched off by default. 

“You can now automatically silence incoming calls from unknown contacts on WhatsApp for even more privacy and control,” said Mark Zuckerberg in a Facebook post.

Note the feature does not block the calls from coming. If you have enabled the feature, you can see the missed call from the unknown number in the calls section of the app along with a ‘missed silenced unknown caller’ tag.

The feature has come after multiple users across India reported receiving a spate of spam messages and calls from international numbers. Entrackr was among the first to report the incident

Calls and texts from these international numbers included some with +84 (code for Vietnam) and +62 (code for Indonesia) or even the US (+1). Scamsters sent text messages on WhatsApp offering fake job offers or quick money-making schemes. In some cases, they even pretended to be HR representatives from known global firms. 

Amid wide concerns about privacy and security, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) also took cognizance of increasing spam calls and texts on WhatsApp from international numbers. Union minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar had said the ministry would send a notice to WhatsApp over the matter.

Even though spam calls and messages through conventional carriers are common in India, it was probably the first time the popular instant messaging platform was targeted at such a scale. It’s worth noting that WhatsApp has nearly 500 million users in India, easilythe largest user base for the company in the world.

Separately, WhatsApp has launched a ‘Privacy Checkup’ feature to help users to monitor the safety of their account on the instant messaging platform. 

“This step-by-step feature guides you through important privacy settings to help you choose the right level of protection, all in one place. Selecting ‘Start checkup’ in your Privacy settings will navigate you through multiple privacy layers that strengthen the security of your messages, calls, and personal information,” the company said in a press release.

While welcome, the move by Whatsapp also puts the spotlight on the problem with spam calls in India. With little to no database sanctity at thousands of firms, and many firms collecting phone numbers for no practical reason. The government needs to take stern action on this front too, to make an impact on the problem.  

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