WhatsApp ‘private’ groups were accessible to anybody on Google; here is what that means for users
A problem that once occurred in 2019, seems to have surfaced again as some WhatsApp groups showed up on Google search again. The company is said to have fixed this problem but according to media reports, user profiles are not showing in Google search results. With the WhatsApp groups showing up on Google, one can easily find or join a private WhatsApp group. All it needs is a simple Google search. If this is done, users’ phone numbers as well as their profile pictures can go public because of the issue.
The company has reportedly allowed indexing of group chat invites due to which several private groups can be made available across the Web and their links can easily be accessed by anyone. These links can pop up via a simple search query on Google and anyone who can find this link can join the group and see the participants. Not only this, posts that are shared in these groups can also be accessed. Last time when this problem had occurred, the company stated that from March 2020, WhatsApp has included the ‘noindex’ tag for all its deep link pages and this allows these links to be excluded from indexing. While links that surfaced in November 2019 are nowhere to be found but looks like some cases have come forth now.
Experts claim that a company like WhatsApp should find a proper solution for a problem like this rather than just offering a ‘noindex’ tag. More than 1,500 group invite links were noticed in the search results earlier.
Developers usually use robots.txt file that enables search engines like Google to crawl any page or not. WhatsApp has reportedly not used the robots.txt file for chat.whatsapp.com subdomain. This could have led to indexing of group chat invites on Google.