WhatsApp is testing self-destructing photos

Facebook-owned WhatsApp is taking another page from Snapchat and other apps with a new privacy feature in testing that lets you set a self-destruct timer for image attachments.


  • Self-destructing images can be viewed once.
  • These photos cannot be saved to the device.
  • Screenshot detection is missing.
  • WhatsApp could choose to kill the feature.

An illustration with a WhatsApp logo in white set against a green background

It works as advertised

According to WABeta Info, this feature works just as you’d expect.

When sending an image within a chat, you can set an optional self-destruct timer. Doing so will prompt the app to delete the image right after it has been viewed on the recipient’s device. This should stop most people from attempting to save vanishing images to their device.

WhatsApp is currently testing this with some users on the iPhone. There’s no word on when it could launch for everyone. WhatsApp could choose to nix the feature if the test disappoints.

There doesn’t seem to be a global setting to enable self-destructing images for all chats, someting that the Telegram app recently implemented. Although no screenshot-detection feature has been implemented yet, it sounds like WhatsApp is working on it. That one would alert the sender if the recipient has attempted to screenshot a self-destructing photo.

Vanishing images provide limited privacy

Many messaging and social apps offer vanishing media, an important feature at a time when smartphone apps are invading our privacy. That being said, it does sound like WhatsApp fans could soon gain the ability to send private images that can be viewed only once.

This may not be enough to stop people from capturing a screen recording.

It definitely won’t be enough to prevent bad actors from using a secondary device with a camera to capture any self-destructing images displayed in WhatsApp on their primary device.

This feature could be crucial for Facebook’s master plan to consolidate the various messaging services spread across its apps into a single, iMessage-like service.

Recently, an Instagram prompt offered to merge Facebook Messenger chats with Instagram Direct. Doing so makes not only chats but other Messenger features available on Instagram Direct, too, like colorful bubbles, additional emoji reactions, swipe to reply and more.