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    WhatsApp details its new privacy-focused call features

    Tech
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    Last updated: November 9th, 2023 at 14:08 UTC+01:00

    WhatsApp has detailed some of its new features designed to enhance privacy when users make calls over the messaging app. WhatsApp has long had end-to-end encryption that prevents anyone but the sender and receiver from reading messages sent through conversations, and this year, it has introduced new security and privacy features for those who are using the app's calling functionality.

    One of those features is called Silence Unknown Callers, which was announced back in June 2023 and, as the name suggests, stops your phone from ringing when you get a call on WhatsApp from an unknown number. On the face of it, that may sound trivial, but as WhatsApp explains, “calling software often automatically processes incoming packets from callers to optimize call setup and improve performance” before a call has been picked up.

    That makes it possible for some malicious attacks to get through without the recipient needing to accept the call. There's a lot of technical jargon in WhatsApp's official blog post, but the gist here is that the Silence Unknown Callers feature gets around the issue by separating incoming calls at a server level and only sending a very basic silenced call notification to the recipient.

    WhatsApp call privacy features

    The other new feature is Protect IP address in calls. Calling over messaging and VoIP clients often happens through a peer-to-peer connection where the calling and the receiving devices are connected directly to each other for improved call quality, but this requires both devices to know each other's IP address. IP addresses can include information such as the user's geographical location, which is not something everyone is comfortable sharing.

    WhatsApp's servers come into play here as well. When the Protect IP address in calls feature is enabled, all calls are routed through WhatsApp's servers instead of being connected directly between the involved parties, leaving out any possibility of either the caller or receiver seeing each other's information.

    Both the Silence Unknown Callers and Protect IP address in calls features can be accessed in WhatsApp's Settings » Privacy menu. The protect IP feature is somewhat new and may not be available for everyone at this time, but that should change soon as WhatsApp says that a wider rollout for iOS and Android is now underway.

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