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Mobile numbers of Whats App web users found in Google search

Some screenshots show the indexing of the personal mobile numbers of WhatsApp users through the web version in Google search.

As Whats App faces serious scrutiny over its upcoming data and privacy policy in India and elsewhere, another user data breach has been reported, this time in the Whats App on desktop (web) application, which is accused of revealing personal mobile numbers by indexing in a Google search.

Although Whats App is primarily a mobile app, it is currently used by over 400 million users in India, with some working professionals even using the instant chat app on their desktops and PCs via the web version.

Independent cybersecurity researcher Rajsekhar Rajaharia shared some screenshots with IANS on Friday showing the indexing of WhatsApp users’ personal mobile numbers via the web version in a Google search.

There is a leak on the web via WhatsApp. If someone is using WhatsApp on a laptop or Office PC, their mobile numbers are indexed in a Google search. “These are personal customers’ mobile numbers and business numbers,” Rajharia told IANS.

Earlier this week, WhatsApp, concerned about private group chat links available on Google search, asked Google not to index such chats and advised users not to share group chat links on publicly accessible websites.

Google has indexed invitation links to private Whats App group chats, which means anyone can join various private chat groups with a simple search. Indexed Whats App group chat links are now removed from Google.

Despite advising WhatsApp users and telling Google to delete previously revealed group chat links, Rajharia said mobile numbers are now being indexed in Google search through the WhatsApp web application.

A WhatsApp spokesperson said in a previous statement that since March 2020, WhatsApp has included the Noindex tag on all deep link pages, excluding them from indexing, according to Google.

We have given our opinion to Google not to index these chats. A company spokesman said users should not post links on a publicly accessible website that they would like to share privately with people they know and trust.

In February last year, app reverse-engineer Jane Wong discovered that Google had 470,000 results for a routine search of “chat.whatsapp.com”.

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According to Rajaharia, the latest leak of personal mobile numbers via WhatsApp on the web has not yet been resolved by the Facebook-owned platform or Google.

This announcement comes at a time when WhatsApp is changing its privacy policy and users must agree and accept if they plan to use the app after February 8th. On Friday, the Delhi High Court single-judge bench withdrew WhatsApp on the ground that it was violating the right to privacy of Indian citizens by not hearing a petition against the forthcoming data and privacy policy.

The petition will now be listed before another bench and will come up for hearing on January 18.

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