KEY POINTS

  • WhatsApp group chat invites could be easily found online
  • The latest WhatsApp design flaw could threaten the privacy and security of group chat owners
  • WhatsApp released a statement advising users what they should do

WhatsApp announced this month that it had passed the 2 billion users mark, making it one of the most widely used messaging app in the world. Just like all other messaging platforms, WhatsApp group chat is very popular since it allows family members, friends, or colleagues to communicate with each other easily. But, a new report reveals that the Invite to Group via Link feature of WhatsApp is easily discoverable and available online.

New Flaw And Its Risks

The new design flaw was, recently, shared on Twitter by journalist Jordan Wildon. It appears that Google indexes the Invite to Group via Link URLs. This means that with the right combination of words, WhatsApp group invite links could be easily found online. 

Popular technology blogger and app researcher Jane Machun Wong shed more light on the gravity of this flaw. According to her, the search engine giant  Google gives you 470,000 search results by only doing a simple site search of “chat.whatsapp.com” URL. The majority of these results are invitations for private groups. This is alarming because once the user joins the group, he could see the phone numbers of all the participants.

The teenagers were arrested for sharing pornographic images via the WhatsApp messaging service Whatsapp logo. Photo: AFP / YASUYOSHI CHIBA

Google Public Search Liaison Danny Sullivan said there are several tools that webmasters could use to restrict content from surfacing in search results. He added that WhatsApp needs to use this to protect the users of these private groups. 

WhatsApp Recommends What Users Should Do

In a recent statement issued to The Verge, Facebook/WhatsApp spokesperson Alison Bonny said, like all other content shared on searchable public channels, these WhatsApp invite links publicly posted could be easily found by other WhatsApp users. The spokesperson added in its email to the site that users should prevent posting links they wish to share with people privately they know on publicly accessible sites.

This is not the first time that WhatsApp is involved in a privacy or security-related issue. One of the biggest headliners that caught the public’s attention is that, which happened to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. The billionaire’s iPhone was, allegedly, hacked when attackers sent a video file to his WhatsApp account.