Do You Use WhatsApp Web? Your Numbers May Appear on Google Search

17 Jan, 2021 14:19 IST|Sakshi Post

After the ‘privacy’ update controversy, messaging app WhatsApp is stuck in yet another problem. With the recent update and controversy regarding sharing of user data with Facebook, WhatsApp was already stuck up in problems and now there were rumors regarding leak of phone numbers on Google Search.

Those people who use ‘WhatsApp web’ recently faced a major issue. The messaging app allegedly leaked the phone numbers of the WhatsApp web users on Google Search through ‘Indexing.’ Couple days ago, the links of WhatsApp groups were available on Google search. Any person would be able to search the link and join the group.

This issue only prevailed for the WhatsApp web users. The app mostly has mobile phone users but many people also prefer the web version for work purposes. Although the problem rose in 2019 and was later fixed, it has resurfaced now in January 2021.

According to the Internet Security Researcher Rajshekhar Rajaharia, "The leak is happening via WhatsApp on the Web. If someone is using WhatsApp on laptop or on an office PC, the mobile numbers are being indexed on Google Search. These are mobile numbers of individual users not business numbers.”

He shared that people who create and use links in order to join the WhatsApp groups faced issues as the links were accessible by anyone through Google search. A person will simply have to search the name of the group on Google and join the group through the link.

"Despite WhatsApp advising users and telling Google to remove the earlier exposed group chat links, the mobile numbers via WhatsApp Web application are now being indexed on Google Search," Rajaharia added.

WhatsApp later issued a statement saying, “Since March 2020, WhatsApp has included the "no index" tag on all deep link pages which, according to Google, will exclude them from indexing. We have given our feedback to Google to not index these chats. As a reminder, whenever someone joins a group, everyone in that group receives a notice and the admin can revoke or change the group invite link at any time.”

Further the statement also added that, “Like all content that is shared in searchable, public channels, invite links that are posted publicly on the internet 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.”

IN NOVEMBER 2019

This was a major problem in November 2019. The group chats and links started appearing on Google search. This was later reported to Facebook by a security researcher and caught everyone’s attention. The matter was fixed immediately. 

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