There are many popular messaging platforms today that advertised a lot of privacy features, including that much-desired but controversial end-to-end encryption or E2EE. While WhatsApp is known for that feature, it isn’t exactly the first nor the most popular in that area. Signal remains one of the most recommended privacy-minded messaging apps, and it is taking one small step further in ensuring its users have total control over their messages, especially their message history, with some new settings for disappearing messages.
Ephemeral messages, also called disappearing or self-destructing messages, go a long way back, of course, popularized by Snapchat. Signal added that functionality back in 2016 but had diverged from Snapchat’s implementation in one important way. While ephemeral messages are the default in Snapchat, they had to be enabled on a per-conversation basis in Signal.
After nearly half a decade, that’s finally changing. With a single switch, you can set disappearing messages to be the default for conversations. It should be noted, however, that the setting will only apply to new conversations or groups after the change was made.
Signal is also giving its users the freedom to choose how long before those messages get deleted from the chat history. Instead of a predefined set of options, you can select set the delay to something as short as a few seconds to as long as a few weeks.
Interestingly, Signal advertises disappearing messages less as a privacy feature and more as a housekeeping tool. It’s primarily designed to save storage space on a device, though it also has the effect of reducing the risk of exposing private conversations in case the device gets into the wrong hands. Signal doesn’t recommend using disappearing messages when communicating with an adversary.