WhatsApp, privacy at risk: secret groups are found on Google

The WhatsApp groups are indexed on Google and anyone could enter them. The discovery has led the search engine to eliminate the results

Steps yet another privacy alarm on WhatsApp. Motherboard, the technological "rib" of the famous online magazine Vice, has identified a rather disturbing flaw related to group chats created on WhatsApp.

Apparently, private invitations to group chats of the world's most famous and used online messaging service would be indexed on Google and can be easily detected and made available to anyone who wants to join. As journalist Jordan Wildon pointed out, if group chat invitation links are spread across the web, it is possible that Google spiders will "intercept" them and make them available in search results. In this way, anyone could get inside private groups and retrieve private information of the participants in the collective conversation.

Private chats and Google: how it works

As we all know, to access a group on WhatsApp you need to be invited. The group administrator generates an invitation link that he sends to his contacts, so they can join and participate in the collective conversation. This same link, however, can be shared by those who receive it not only on WhatsApp, but also through other means of communication. By doing so, however, the link becomes public domain and "visible" even to Google's search algorithms, which insert it into their database and SERPs.

This is a pretty disturbing security flaw and one that potentially allows anyone to enter private group chats. After the reports, Google quickly ran for cover by blocking the searches in question. To view invitations to private chats it was necessary to open the search engine and type the following string: site:chat.whatsapp.com. The search identified thousands of results regarding invitations to private chats, which anyone could access without any problem.

The response of WhatsApp

After the discovery, the top management of WhatsApp immediately intervened on the incident with an official communication. "WhatsApp group administrators are able to invite any WhatsApp user to join that group by sharing a link they have generated. Like all content shared in searchable public channels, invitation links that are posted on the Internet can be found by other WhatsApp users. Links that users want to share privately with people they know, and trust, should not be posted on a publicly accessible website."