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WhatsApp speaks up on profiles, group invite links showing on Google search results

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It has been mentioned that users with the links can join the groups and can see participants along with their phone numbers and the posts that they have shared.

Update: WhatsApp spokesperson gives a statement.

"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. As a reminder, whenever someone joins a group, everyone in that group receives a notice and the admin can revoke or change the group invite link at any time.

Like all content that is shared in searchable, public channels, invite links that are posted publicly on the internet can be found by other WhatsApp users. Links that users wish to share privately with people they know and trust should not be posted on a publicly accessible website."

Original story: In February last year, Google and WhatsApp gathered a whole lot of headlines as some public groups, along with chats and member information, started showing up on Google search results. Although the issue was solved later and the groups were hidden, some WhatsApp groups and profiles have started showing up again, according to cybersecurity researcher Rajshekhar Rajaharia (via Gadgets 360). 

This time users’ phone numbers and profile pictures are also showing up, making the situation worse than before. All people need is the URL of the group and they can join by simply searching it on Google.

It has been mentioned that users with the links can join the groups and can see participants along with their phone numbers and the posts that they have shared. It is not for sure when exactly WhatsApp has started indexing group chat invites on Google. However, the report adds that around 1,500 group invite links were already there on search results.

Also read: Don’t know about your messages, but your WhatsApp Pay details are safe, as per the pay policy

While some of the groups indexed by Google leads the users to porn content, others are specific to some user interests.

Rajaharia mentioned that the Facebook-owned instant messenger was not using robots.txt file for chat.whatsapp.com subdomain. Companies use robots.txt to prevent search crawlers from indexing content.

As for user profiles, Google has started showing up private accounts of users along with their profile images and names, adds the report. It is possible to see user profiles by searching for country codes on WhatsApp's domain. Some 5,000 profiles are said to have been made public for now. According to Rajaharia, WhatsApp is not using the robots.txt file here as well.

Both WhatsApp and Google have not made any public statements yet.

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