WhatsApp Web Is Being Indexed by Google Again

Written by Bill Toulas
Last updated July 13, 2021

Have you left WhatsApp yet? Cause if you haven’t, your mobile number and messages are now being indexed by Google. This is the third time that it happens, so we may as well consider WhatsApp a public space now.

Just four days ago, independent researcher Rajshekhar Rajaharia informed us about Google Search indexing WhatsApp Group Chat invite links, which opened the door for anyone to access private user data and communication content. Now, the same researcher discovered that WhatsApp Web is leaking sensitive info to Google’s search engine crawlers.

The researcher explained that this time, WhatsApp is actually using a “Robots.txt” file and a “disallow all” setting, so they are instructing Google not to index anything. However, Google is doing it anyway, probably due to an error on their side.

To complete the privacy catastrophe, WhatsApp isn’t monitoring what Google Search is indexing. So, this sensitive data is left to leak online until an ethical researcher like R. Rajaharia reports about it.

This is now getting into the sphere of incompetence underlined by extreme negligence, as we’re talking about two of the world’s largest companies, Google and Facebook. These companies are responsible for handling the sensitive data of billions of people, yet they fail to take basic privacy-protection measures and evaluate the effectiveness of what they’re actually trying to do to prevent leaks of this type. At the time of writing this, the issue is still unaddressed by either of the tech giants.

The fact that all of that happens during a privacy policy change on WhatsApp, which fundamentally undermines the users’ privacy by forcing them to agree to have their data shared with Facebook, is not helping the product contain the “user bleeding” damage. There has been such a massive exodus that Signal, one of the best alternatives to WhatsApp, was overwhelmed for a moment by the influx of new users.

For those of you who still have reasons to stay on WhatsApp, we have prepared a guide on navigating the minefield of the new privacy policy, what the new points mean for the user, and what happens if you choose to skip accepting it for now. If you’re planning to stick with WhatsApp, make sure to read these two posts carefully.

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