Phone Numbers Whatsapp Web Users Found On Google Search

Recently lots of controversies about WhatsApp are rising which seems to have done damage to people’s trust in the application. Several allegations are reported by their users who have found privacy breaches while using the WhatsApp web provision. The mobile numbers of those using WhatsApp Web have been found on the Google search, hence creating panic amongst the users. 

Followed by this the new privacy policy has also stirred up people to the extent where the users are shifting to other messaging applications such as Signal, Telegram, etc. In this article, we will focus on the issue regarding the sharing of private information, the mobile number on Google by WhatsApp.

Also, read about: Is Signal The New Communication Tool?

We will also check out the precautions one must take to prevent it and the steps to do the same.

WhatsApp Web

WhatsApp is a mobile messaging application that is very popular and used by over 400 million users all over the world. WhatsApp Web is one of the unique features of this application that allows the users to connect their application to a PC or laptop and use it easily.

Also, check out: Signal Vs Telegram: Which Is The Better Alternative To Whatsapp?

The issues identified

The recent problem reported by the users is that the mobile numbers are found in Google search after using this feature. Independent researcher in the field of cybersecurity, Mr Rajshekhar Rajaharia was the one to prove this privacy breach through some screenshots that clearly showed the indexing of personal mobile numbers of the WhatsApp Web users on the Google search.

The reason behind this is similar to another recent issue regarding group chat links being available on Google search due to indexing, such that anyone who knows the name of the group can simply search for it in Google and add themselves to the group.

Check out: 6 Popular Alternatives To Whatsapp That You Can Try

WhatsApp had assured their users that the ‘group chat links’ have been asked to be removed by Google but then this vulnerability was identified. Mr Rajshekhar Rajaharia explained to IANS its seriousness as the contacts being shared are the personal or individual contacts and not business contacts. Most of the professionals use the Web version rather than mobile, hence this is a huge exploitation factor for the users.

whatsapp web

The action taken by WhatsApp

WhatsApp spokesperson told IANS that, “Since March 2020, WhatsApp has included the “noindex” tag on all deep link pages which, according to Google, will exclude them from indexing. We have given our feedback to Google to not index these chats.” 

This was the response regarding the sharing of the chat group links on Google search which provided about 4,70,000 results by simple search along with the ‘chat.whatsapp.com’ link.

However, no such steps have been taken or addressed by Facebook or WhatsApp regarding the indexing of mobile numbers by Google. All this occurred when Facebook had announced the new WhatsApp privacy policy which must be accepted by the users to continue using the application. The final date of establishment of these new policies has been extended from February 8th and the hearings are going on in the Delhi High Court.

Related: WhatsApp Delays New Terms Rollout After Backlash

All these problems have given enough reasons for the users to flock to other applications as privacy is something that cannot be compromised no matter to what extent. The leak of chat links, phone numbers, and the new privacy policy has loaded WhatsApp and the owner Facebook with questions that must be answered as soon as possible.

Precautions and preventions

Few tips to prevent such issues in any social media platform or application where privacy issues can be faced are:

  • Keep your very important and personal data away from any form of social platform and avoid its sharing through them.
  • Stay alert always. Just keep in mind that we cannot see all that happens to our data and act as if someone is always watching. This consciousness is very important to keep ourselves protected from any data leaks.
  • Check, research, and read the permissions that are asked while downloading any new application instead of blindly choosing the ‘Allow’ option.
  • Selective audience and focused purposes will keep you safe from any sort of breach by another individual.

All these being said WhatsApp stands as a good option with better security options when compared to other platforms. Some of the suggestions to improve WhatsApp privacy are:

  • Check for encryption enabled for conversations even though it is done by default.
  • Follow these steps to verify the encryption:
  • Open a conversation with that contact. 
  • From the chat window tap on the contact’s name, and then tap Encryption.
  • A 40-digit patterned security code would be available along with a QR code that can be used for manual verification by scanning it.
  • It is recommended to verify and check this code through some other medium or platform.
  • Turn on the ‘Security Notifications’ that will generate notifications whenever a new PC, laptop, or mobile device accesses previously existing chats. Follow these steps to enable this feature:
    1. Open the WhatsApp application
    2. Go to Settings.
    3. Open the ‘Account’ settings
    4. Go to ‘Security’ settings and click on the ‘Show security notifications’ to flip the toggle to green and enable the feature.
  • Enable the ‘Two-Step Verification’ feature by the following steps:
    1. Open the WhatsApp application.
    2.  Go to Settings 
    3. Open the ‘Account’ settings.
    4. Choose the two-step verification’ option. Choose ‘Enable’.
    5. Create a six-digit PIN code by following the steps, that you can easily remember. Also, add your email-id or address to retrieve that code if you forget it.
    6. This won’t act as the WhatsApp application lock but random periodic checks are enabled. This will prevent others from accessing your chats without your knowledge.

In this article, we have discussed the recent issue of phone numbers of WhatsApp Web users being indexed by Google and some of the tips for you to protect your account from any sorts of data leaks.

Also, read about: The Truth Behind The New WhatsApp Policy

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