WhatsApp web application allows users to use the instant messaging app on desktop or PCs. Rajshekhar Rajaharia, the independent cybersecurity researcher exposed on Friday some screenshots claiming the indexing of personal contact numbers of WhatsApp web users on Google Search via web version.
Rajaharia stated that when someone uses WhatsApp on their desktops, laptop, or PCs, their mobile numbers are indexed on Google Search. He further added that these mobile numbers are not business numbers but of individual users.
Previously, WhatsApp had stated that it had asked Google not to index private group chat links and advised users against sharing chat links on public websites. Google had indexed chat invite links to private WhatsApp groups, thereby implying that anyone can join various private chat groups with a simple search. However, the indexed chat links have been now removed from Google. In this regard, Rajaharia noted that despite WhatsApp asking Google to remove the previously exposed group chat links, personal mobile numbers are now being indexed in Google via the web version.
In March 2020, a WhatsApp spokesperson had stated that WhatsApp includes a “noindex” tag on all deep link pages, and therefore according to Google, it will not be included in the indexing. The latest leak of personal contact numbers via WhatsApp Web has not yet been addressed by either the Facebook-owned platform or Google.
The issue first cropped up in February last year when an app reverse-engineer found that Google had around 4.7 lakh results for a simple search of “chat.whatsapp.com”. This is part of the URL that makes up WhatsApp group invites.