Report: WhatsApp allowed people to Google for private group chats and phone numbers

It was reported that private WhatsApp groups and numbers were accessible via Google — for the second time. ― Picture via SoyaCincau
It was reported that private WhatsApp groups and numbers were accessible via Google — for the second time. ― Picture via SoyaCincau

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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 20 ― Around the same time WhatsApp announces that they’re postponing their new terms and privacy policy update, it was reported that private WhatsApp groups and numbers were accessible via Google — for the second time.

In 2019, it was discovered that anyone could search for and join a private WhatsApp group by simply searching on Google. It was then fixed after the issue became public. However, the issue repeated itself for the second time recently.

The leaks are also from private telephone numbers — not commercial or business numbers. But the security flaw would only happen to those who use the web version of the application, and anyone could join a private group if they know how to search and find the links.

With the links, people who weren’t even invited to groups were able to join them easily. Some of the links indexed by Google showed WhatsApp groups specific interests — including porn.

According to Gadgets 360, the search results are no longer visible on Google. But WhatsApp did not mention this fix. However, a WhatsApp spokesperson did say in a statement that they have “given feedback to Google to not index these chats”.

“Since March 2020, WhatsApp has included the “noindex” tag on all deep link pages which, according to Google, will exclude them from indexing,” they said.

The WhatsApp spokesperson also mentions that admins can “revoke or change the group invite link at any time”, and that “everyone in a group receives a notice” whenever someone joins a group. They advise that invite links shouldn’t be posted publicly on the internet as they can be found by other WhatsApp users.

“Links that users wish to share privately with people they know and trust should not be posted on a publicly accessible website,” they continued.

This doesn’t bode well with WhatsApp’s reputation, especially after users were forced to accept WhatsApp’s integration with Facebook. But after a public outcry and calls to switch to other messaging platforms like Signal and Telegram, WhatsApp said that they would delay their new update by about 3 months. ― SoyaCincau

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