WhatsApp says it has rectified an issue that causes some users’ phone numbers to show up in Google search results.
The platform’s resolution of the issue comes just days after it was reported by a researcher who traced the problem to WhatsApp’s ‘Click to Chat’ feature which creates a simplified link that can be used to join a chat.
According to researcher Athul Jayaram, the issue affected at least 300,000 phone numbers which appeared in Google when searching for, ‘site:we.me’.
Jayaram says that the numbers were indexed by Google because WhatsApp failed to request that they are ignored by the search giant’s web crawler – a feature that TechCrunch notes are available to web administrators.
WhatsApp told TechCrunch that it won’t be awarding a bounty for Jayaram’s identification of the bug since the research only contained publicly available Google results.
‘While we appreciate this researcher’s report and value the time that he took to share it with us, it did not qualify for a bounty since it merely contained a search engine index of URLs that WhatsApp users chose to make public,’WhatsApp said in a statement.
‘All WhatsApp users, including businesses, can block unwanted messages with the tap of a button.’
This isn’t the first time that WhatsApp has had issues with being crawled by Google’s algorithm. Earlier this year, around 470,000 invite links were found on Google’s index which could be pulled up with simple search terms.
The issue exposed chat groups for the sharing of ‘nude live videos’ and child sex abuse images and also people working for the United Nations.
Anyone finding a group link online could conceivably join the chat — enabling them to see potentially private or confidential exchanges as well as the members’ phone numbers and WhatsApp usernames.