Meta-owned social media platform WhatsApp has finally rolled out silence unknown callers feature in order to enhance users’ privacy, Mark Zuckerberg said on Tuesday. The feature will provide protection against spam calls, scam calls, and unknown callers. The feature is available on both Android and iOS devices.
"You can now automatically silence incoming calls from unknown contacts on WhatsApp for even more privacy and control," Zuckerberg said in an Instagram broadcast.
In order to enable the feature, users will have to select the privacy settings and click on the call option. After selecting the 'silence unknown caller' option, the feature will be enabled. The users will, however, still see silenced calls from unknown callers in the notification. If users call or message back the silenced caller, they won’t be able to silence their calls in future, according to WhatsApp.
"Silencing calls from unknown callers means you can focus on conversations that matter to you while preserving your privacy and preventing unwanted contact," WhatsApp said.
"You can call an unknown caller back from within the Calls tab. Alternatively, tap the Silenced unknown caller message within a chat," it added.
The development comes days after several users in India, the company’s largest market, complained about getting missed calls on WhatsApp from unknown international numbers. These calls come with phone numbers that begin with +880 (Bangladesh), +251 (Ethiopia), +60 (Malaysia), +62 (Indonesia), +254 (Kenya), and +84 (Vietnam) among others.
In April, the social media platform banned 74,52,500 accounts, a sharp increase of 58.02% month-on-month, in order to prevent possible online abuse. This is the highest number of accounts banned by the social media platform in over 12 months.
Notably, the social media platform is working closely with the Indian government to enhance users’ privacy. Last month, the government said that the social media platform will remove mobile phone numbers flagged as "fraudulent" on the Sanchar Saathi portal of the telecom ministry's Department of Telecommunications (DoT).
According to a Truecaller report, mobile phone users in India get nearly 17 spam calls on average per month. The vast majority, around 93.5%, of all spam in India are sales or telemarketing calls. India is one of the biggest markets for WhatsApp, where it has the most monthly active users at around 400 million. In January 2021, India’s antitrust regulator launched a probe against WhatsApp for sharing users' data with its parent Meta. The Competition Commission of India is investigating WhatsApp and Facebook over alleged violations of users’ privacy and competition norms.
In order to enhance its privacy features, WhatsApp has already launched the ‘Chat Lock’ feature that allows users to put a conversation in a folder that can only be accessed with their device's password or biometric, like a fingerprint last month. The Chat Lock feature on WhatsApp lets users protect most intimate conversations behind one more layer of security.