On Friday independent cybersecurity researcher Rajshekhar Rajaharia forwarded some screenshots with IANS showing indexing of personal mobile numbers of WhatsApp web users on Google search.
Google had cataloged WhatsApp invite links to private WhatsApp chats, as a result, anyone having that link can join that business group with just a simple click or search. Earlier WhatsApp has advised its users not to share group chat links on accessible websites.
WhatsApp has also asked Google not to index such group chat links on their browser. According to WhatsApp’s spokesperson, the links that users wish to share privately with people they trust and know must not be uploaded on any publicly accessible website
According to Rajaharia the leak of personal mobile numbers via WhatsApp on the web has not been addressed so far by Google or Facebook-owned platform. In a follow-up tweet, he mentioned that WhatsApp is using a “Robots.txt” file and a “disallow all” settings, instructing search engines not to index anything. Still, Google is listing the data and showing it on search results. However, WhatsApp soon took cognizance of the vulnerability and issued a statement regarding the statement issued by Rajaharia.
This is the third time that such an incident has happened. A similar issue was reported a year ago where app reverse-engineer Jane Wong has told that Google has around 470,000 results for just “chat.whatsapp.com”, a part of URL that intends to invite people to various Whatsapp groups.
The public is not understanding why WhatsApp is not monitoring their website and Google. If someone is using WhatsApp on an office PC or on the laptop, the mobile numbers are being enlisted on simple Google search. People have started shifting from other similar apps like Telegram and Signal.
This much big traffic was not expected by signal, as a result, the app is now facing connectivity issues. Some people even say that WhatsApp has allegedly exposed the phone numbers of WhatsApp web users on Google search via indexing.
How to block Whatsapp number from Google
You can block your WhatsApp number from Google search results by not using the click to chat feature. If you have already used click to chat and delete any links that you have already created.
You can turn off WhatsApp web from your phone, tap on Menu then WhatsApp web. This will show up all your Whatsapp web active sessions with the last active time. Now simply tap on Log out from all devices and computer. This will logout to you from all the devices that you were logged in to.
Rajshekhar has done many tweets regarding this matter and blames WhatsApp for monitoring their websites and Google. He even shared certain pictures where mobile numbers of people have been indexed.
Through such a Google search, anyone can join the business or personal groups and can view personal phone numbers and then with true caller detect more personal details.
WhatsApp said that from March 2020 WhatsApp has included the “no index” tagline on all deep website link pages which will exclude them from indexing according to Google. Feedback was given from WhatsApp to google no to enlist all such chats and mobile numbers on their browser.
In case anyone joins the group from the google search link then everyone in that particular group receives notification that someone has recently joined the WhatsApp group even the admin of that particular group gets the information and has the right to cancel the person ie to remove the person from that group.
The person can also change the group invitation link anytime. The links which have been mistakenly uploaded on the web can also be changed anytime. WhatsApp requests its users to share such links only with those members and people whom they trust and know personally or through business
A similar issue had been reported up in November 2019. The Group chats and links with mobile numbers had appeared on Google Search. At that time the issue was resolved by Facebook and WhatsApp collectively.