Google and WhatsApp gained a lot of headlines during February last year because some public groups, along with chats and information about members, started reflecting on Google search results. According to Rajshekhar Rajaharia, a cybersecurity researcher (via Gadgets 360), although the issue was sorted later and the groups were hidden but some WhatsApp groups and profiles have started to reflect again.
This time the situation became worse than before because the user’s phone numbers and profile pictures are also showing up this time. People can simply join the group by having the URL of the group and searching it on Google.
It has been said that the users who have the links can join the groups, view participants of the group along with their contact numbers and the posts shared by them. It is not sure that exactly when indexing of group chat invites on Google has been started by WhatsApp.
Moreover, the report further added that around 1500 group invite links were there on Google search already. Some of the groups indexed by Google directed the users to porn content and some are specific to some user interests.
Rajshekhar Rajaharia said that this happened because WhatsApp was not using robots.txt file for chat.whatsapp.com subdomain. Companies use robots.txt in order to stop search crawlers from indexing content.
Report also added that Google has started displaying private accounts of users along with their profile names and images for user profiles. It is feasible to view profiles of the user by searching for country codes on the domain of WhatsApp. As of now around 5000 profiles are said to have been made public and WhatsApp is not using the robots.txt file here as well as per Rajshekhar Rajaharia. Any public statements have not been made by both WhatsApp and Google yet.