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WhatsApp launches View Once photos and videos that disappear

The feature is geared toward media you might not want to see hanging around forever. WhatsApp says View Once photos and videos are also encrypted.

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Disappearing content has made its debut on WhatsApp.

Angela Lang/CNET

WhatsApp wants in on ephemeral content. The Facebook-owned company on Tuesday unveiled View Once photos and videos, which vanish from a chat after they've been opened, "giving users even more control over their privacy."

Like personal messages, View Once media is protected by end-to-end encryption, WhatsApp says. Photos and videos sent using this feature will have a "one-time" icon to signify they'll disappear. Media won't be saved to the recipient's photos or gallery, and users won't be able to forward, save, star or share images or videos sent or received using View Once. 

Encrypted media could be stored on WhatsApp's servers a few weeks after it's been sent, the company notes. And if a recipient reports View Once media, it'll be given to the company. 

You'll be able to see if recipients opened photos or videos only if their read receipts are on. If media isn't opened within 14 days, it'll expire. Users sending a View Once photo or video will need to select the View Once option each time they do so. 

Though this feature could provide a greater sense of privacy for more-sensitive content, WhatsApp notes you should send View Once photos or videos only to people you trust, since it's possible for someone to take a screenshot or to screen record content. (You won't get a notification if they do.) It's also possible for them to take a photo or video of media with another device. 

The feature is similar to Snapchat, which also lets users send disappearing photos and videos, in addition to letting them share content for 24 hours. Instagram, another Facebook-owned company, also launched similar features on its platform, a few years ago. 

View Once is rolling out to all users starting this week.