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When Google introduced the ability to unsend an email, it gave users up to 30 seconds to use the feature before the message went through. Google does this by delaying transmission, but it's not the only way to go about things. Earlier this year, WhatsApp (Android, iOS) introduced the ability to unsend a message if you made the request within one hour. And until now, the app could attempt indefinitely to delete your message.

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However, and eagle-eyed Twitter account named WABetaInfo reports that the app will stop attempting to delete a message after about 13 hours. Users of a modded version of WhatsApp could also delete messages that were sent months or even years earlier, but this unintended feature is also now getting blocked.

In India, WhatsApp has been plagued with rumor-mongering, often to deadly effect. Amnesty International has also recently been targeted via WhatsApp with politically motivated disinformation campaigns. So blocking belated deletion requests past the 13-hour mark may help law enforcement document crimes and locate criminals.

In order for the unsend feature to work, WhatsApp has to be able to remotely access the actual devices where the offending message has been sent to and then delete it. So if the device is simply off or not connected to a network during that time frame, the message in question becomes part of the permanent record.

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Readers may recall that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made headlines earlier this year when it came out that he had (and used) the ability to delete his own sent messages in other people's inboxes, a feature that the Facebook community had been asking about for years and which Facebook claimed was impractical.

Upon the public discovery of Zuckerberg's magical powers, the company quickly announced that it would give everyone else this feature, and it's reportedly being prototyped now.

Facebook purchased WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014, and its co-founder Brian Acton, who left last year, has publicly and expansively criticized Facebook for perceived lapses regarding user data. WhatsApp's other co-founder Jan Koum left around the same time, also citing disagreements with Facebook over user data security.

Takeaways

  • A Twitter account that monitors WhatsApp reported that the app's unsend feature will no longer work for messages that are more than about 13 hours old.
  • If the recipient's device is off or not connected to a network during the 13 hours that WhatsApp attempts to delete the message, it will remain on the device.

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Tom McNamara is a Senior Editor for CNET's Download.com. He mainly covers Windows, mobile and desktop security, games, Google, streaming services, and social media. Tom was also an editor at Maximum PC and IGN, and his work has appeared on CNET, PC Gamer, MSN.com, and Salon.com. He's also unreasonably proud that he's kept the same phone for more than two years.