In 2019, WhatsApp private groups started appearing on Google Search. This wasn’t the only issue as user profiles also started showing up on the search engine. After becoming public, both issues were fixed last year.
However, the popular messaging platform’s private groups and users profiles are once again available across the web. This is as a result of WhatsApp allowing Google to index group chat invite links that can be accessed by anyone using a simple search on the web.
WhatsApp private group links listed on Google Search
Indexation of group chat invites makes several private groups on WhatsApp available across the web through a simple search. Users can access the link and join the groups. Upon joining, they can also see participants along with their phone numbers and profile pictures which makes things worse.
Addressing the issue, a WhatsApp spokesperson said in 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.”
Cybersecurity researcher Rajyashekhar Rajaharia (via Gadgets 360) reported that around 1,500 group invite links are available in the search results at present With the links people who weren’t invited could easily join the groups. The search engine giant has also indexed over 5,000 WhatsApp user profiles that make profile photos and phone numbers accessible. Rajaharia added that WhatsApp is not using robots.txt file that is used to prevent crawlers from indexing content.