NEW DELHI: The leading chat service provider WhatsApp is introducing a new privacy setting that will not allow to add anyone in a WhatsApp group without permission, to add someone in a group will need permission from that person, now onwards.  

The Indian government had been raising the privacy concern from six months and it's expected that this move will play a significant role in the election season. 

WhatsApp owned by Facebook said ”As people turn to groups for important conversations, users have asked for more control over their experience. Today, we’re introducing a new privacy setting and invite system to help you decide who can add you to groups.” 

The spokesperson of WhatsApp called this move a 'significant change'. He also said “We are updating the feature to a subset of users and expanding the feature from there. We’re starting in India today with beta users and will expand from there. We encourage users to update their app to the latest version.” 

Till now WhatsApp has not provided any data about how many of its user in India will have access to this new feature but officials in IT ministry said, out of many concerns raised by the ministry, Facebook had finally made a significant change. "WhatsApp has informed us, and their decision on activating user consent is a good thing,” said a senior official.  

The official also said “government had been left frustrated by WhatsApp’s non-compliance with its repeated demands for user consent and traceability of messages. “We hope things will move on the issue of traceability as well.” 

Earlier the government asked WhatsApp to make available the source of any message to law agencies, to trace the origin of any message which can trigger panic and chaos. But on the stance of user privacy, the company denied providing such information. An executive working on free speech and privacy on the digital platform said “especially the fact that it has launched the new feature in India, to begin with, is a clear signal that it is falling in line with the government’s demand.” 

  “This is election season and when data regarding phone numbers of people is easily available, it is a great tool in the hands of all parties to spread some or the other propaganda or nasty things about each other without people’s consent,” said another government official. 

To access the new feature, the user needs to go to ‘privacy and groups’ under ‘account settings’ and then can select one of the following option 'Nobody', 'My Contacts' or 'Everyone'. 

‘Nobody’- means the user needs to approve every time he is invited to join a group. 

‘My Contacts’- means only people in its contact list will be able to add. In this case, the person inviting users to a group will be prompted to send a private invite through a one-on-one chat, allowing the user the choice of joining the group. Users will have three days to respond before the invite expires.