WhatsApp Group Invite link indexed on Google

Update (24/02/2020, 7:00 PM IST): Initially, it seemed that WhatsApp didn’t give users even a single ray of hope after their private chats ended up on Google Search and on other search engines as well.

WhatsApp Private Chats Links on Google Removed

But according to an update posted by Jane Wong, the company was working quietly behind the curtain. Now, making a search for the said private chat invite links on Google brings nothing but an error message. Whatsapp has delisted the invitation links from Google by including the “noindex” meta tag.

The original post continues from here.

Google is indexing the invitations to the WhatsApp Group chats, including the links to join private groups as reported by Vice. As a result, the links are available for people all around the globe to join any discoverable group.

Multimedia journalist Jordan Wildon tweeted and raised a question over WhatsApp’s security. He said that WhatsApp’s ‘Invite to Group via Link’ feature permits Google to index groups, which then become available all over the internet for everyone to join.

Vice discovered several private groups with the help of specific search queries. The result page consisted of a lot of groups meant for porn sharing. Once anyone joins the group, they have permission to view all the participants and their phone numbers.

Popular reverse engineering enthusiast Jane Manchun Wong said in her tweet that a misconfiguration from WhatsApp is allowing Google to index group invite links. She suggested that there are ways to deindex the invite links from Search.

A WhatsApp spokesperson said that group admins can invite any user to join their group by sharing the invite link. Like all other content available on the open web, invite links posted on public platforms are also searchable. He concluded his statement by saying that admins should make sure that they share the group link with trusted people only.

Google’s Take

Google refused to comment on the scenario going on. However, Google official Danny Sullivan tweeted that search engines like Google index pages from the open web. The same thing happened in the case of invite links to WhatsApp groups.

He concluded by saying that WhatsApp as a website has allowed listing the invite links publically. Sullivan also added a link in his tweet, which redirected people to the Help Center to block content to be displayed from the Google search results.

So, it seems that things are designed this way, even if they pose a threat to users’ privacy. Users are advised not to share personal WhatsApp group links on public platforms until WhatsApp announces any under-the-hood changes.

Nishit Raghuwanshi
A Journalism grad from Lucknow who loves writing tech news. Interested in the latest smartphones, apps, mobile gaming, and general tech. When he’s not busy covering tech developments, you can find him writing or performing rap somewhere in Delhi.