WhatsApp group invitation links indexed by Google may not leave room for privacy

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To improve data protection, WhatsApp had added a secondary level where users had to be sent an invitation link to add to groups. (File photo)

To improve data protection, WhatsApp had added a secondary level where users had to be sent an invitation link to add to groups. (File photo)

To improve data protection, WhatsApp had added a secondary level where users had to be sent an invitation link to add to groups. (File photo)

By indexing multiple private WhatsApp groups on Google, anyone can join any controversial group, some of which aim to exchange pornography.

  • IANS
  • Last updated: February 22, 2020, 12:55 p.m.

Google has indexed invitation links to private WhatsApp group chats so anyone can easily join different private chat groups (including multiple porn sharing groups) with a simple search. According to a report in Motherboard, invitations to WhatsApp group chats were indexed by Google.

The team found private groups using specific Google searches, and even joined a group targeted at United Nations-accredited NGOs that had access to all participants and their phone numbers. Journalist Jordan Wildon said on Twitter that he found that WhatsApp's "Invite to Group Links" feature allows Google to index groups and make them available online because the links are outside WhatsApp's secure private messaging service to be shared.

"Your WhatsApp groups may not be as secure as you think," Wildon tweeted on Friday, adding that certain Google searches can be used to find links to the chats. According to Jane Wong, reverse engineer of the app, Google has around 470,000 results for a simple search in "chat.whatsapp.com", part of the URL that invites to WhatsApp groups consist of.

WhatsApp spokeswoman Alison Bonny said, "Like all content shared on searchable public channels, invitation links that are publicly posted on the Internet can be found by other WhatsApp users. The links that users want to share privately with people who you know and trust should not be published on a public website, "Bonny told The Verge.

Danny Sullivan, Google's public search liaison, tweeted: "Search engines like Google and others list sites from the open web. This is exactly what happens here. It is no different than in any case where URLs can be publicly listed on a website. We offer tools that enable content blocking websites that are listed in our results. "