WhatsApp Stealth Mode – How to disable read receipts and last seen status
Just like the case with Facebook, the read receipts have ruined more relationships than it had helped people. I think WhatsApp must have stopped at the double tick marks that indicate whether the text message is delivered or not. Some cruel dev thought it’d be fun to have another set of tick marks that would make sure the other party had read the message. The evil part is not to provide an option to disable the damn thing in particular. This is a helper article to guide you through the process of disabling them and perhaps considering a different messaging application.
At the time of writing, WhatsApp did not have any native support to turn off the read receipts or the ‘last seen’ status of a user. Now, as of 2017, the settings to disable both the read receipts and last seen timestamps can be found in the Settings > Account > Privacy screen. The sad thing is this is not indeed a stealthy solution as these annoying features won’t be disabled for group messages.
Complete WhatsApp stealth mode
To avoid being spotted online and having your read receipts updated, you can simply read the group messages with your airplane mode on. Of course, this will not stop the ‘delivered’ part of the receipt. But it will make sure that the ‘read’ part doesn’t get updated. You’ll need the internet for that! Other than this, there is no real secure way to protect your online status in WhatsApp.
However, you can use the plethoras of apps in the app store that claim to hide your read receipts. Use them at your own risk as most of these apps either do the airplane mode trick or scam you into paying for nothing. But there are also modded apps like WhatsApp plus that share the same codebase of WhatsApp but provide some highly customizable functionalities like freezing the last seen status forever and even hiding the delivered receipts. But we do not recommend installing them, as they are not safe and it is potentially dangerous for your private data.
If you don’t mind rooting your phone and voiding the warranty, you can use a firewall and block internet access to WhatsApp when you are opening messages. Any sane person wouldn’t go to this length of a hassle. If you don’t want to root the device, you can still install some firewall applications like Mobiwol to do the job. On the other hand, it’s okay to switch to a different messaging app.
Should you be using WhatsApp?
It’s a fast changing world and you’re worried about one little read receipt and online status that could ruin your life. Take a step back and ask if you are using the right messaging app? Now that Facebook owns WhatsApp, it is unsure how your personal data is handled here. And most users only stay with WhatsApp just for the sole reason that their friends are using it. Perhaps you should speak up and ask them to move to a secure messaging app like Signal or Telegram or Wire. All these three apps are focused on privacy and have no nonsense features like the one you have in WhatsApp. And you don’t have to go to lengths to be stealthy, as these apps are designed to protect your privacy.
This post was first published on September 13, 2013.