Concerned at private group chat links being available on Google Search, WhatsApp on Monday said that they have asked Google not to index such chats and advised users not to share group chat links on publicly accessible websites.
Google had indexed invite links to private WhatsApp group chats, meaning anyone can join various private chat groups with a simple search.
The indexed WhatsApp group chat links have now been removed from Google.
Independent cybersecurity researcher Rajshekhar Rajaharia on Sunday shared screenshots with IANS showing indexing of WhatsApp group chat invites on Google.
“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,” a WhatsApp spokesperson told IANS.
“Links that users wish to share privately with people they know and trust should not be posted on a publicly accessible website,” the company spokesperson added..
The issue was first cropped up in February last year when app reverse-engineer Jane Wong found that Google has around 470,000 results for a simple search of “chat.whatsapp.com”, part of the URL that makes up invites to WhatsApp groups.
Journalist Jordan Wildon also discovered that WhatsApp’s “Invite to Group Link” feature lets Google index groups, making them available across the internet since the links are being shared outside of WhatsApp’s secure private messaging service.
The WhatsApp spokesperson further said that 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”.
Danny Sullivan, Google’s public search liaison, had tweeted earlier: “Search engines like Google & others list pages from the open web. That’s what’s happening here. It’s no different than any case where a site allows URLs to be publicly listed. We do offer tools allowing sites to block content being listed in our results.”