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Private WhatsApp porn chats – and much worse – are being exposed via Google search

Google has been found to be indexing WhatsApp invite links – so anyone who has posted direct links to their chat group on the world wide web could inadvertently be exposing their private details to the entire internet.

The issue was recently highlighted by Jordan Wilson, a journalist at DW News. Broadcasting the news via Twitter, he posted a screenshot demonstrating the plethora of group links he’d managed to find online via a simple Google search:

As a brief explainer, WhatsApp has an “invite to group via link” feature in the group settings page, which only a group admin can access. Clicking on this will generate a link that you can ping over to other individuals – anyone with access to this link could then join your chat, see your number, and look at all your public WhatsApp details.

Problems arise when these links are shared outside of private messaging, for example on message boards or forums.

Because Google is indexing these WhatsApp links, it makes them very easy to track down. A simple Google search of “chat.whatsapp.com” throws up an immeasurable number of invites to private groups.

Most of these are porn chat groups, which means that the details of both organisers and other participants are exposed on the internet. This is worrying in itself – but a quick scroll through the results has thrown up some extremely sinister results.

Joseph Cox from Vice’s Motherboard managed to gain access to a United Nations NGO chat group. Others claim to have found group chats with disturbing names that relate to child pornography and far-right organisations.

Responding to Trusted Reviews‘ request for comment, WhatsApp reinforced the fact that links can only be found if they’re posted on the open internet, on a publicly accessible website.

Anyone who’s worried can revoke a link (if they’re the admin) or leave a group. The company also says that everyone’s numbers are shown as default because this lets users see who will receive their message.

The company also issued the following statement:

“Group admins in WhatsApp groups are able to invite any WhatsApp user to join that group by sharing a link that they have generated. 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.”

When pressed about the groups discovered with names relating to child pornography, a WhatsApp spokesperson responded by saying that the company has a zero-tolerance policy around child sexual abuse and bans users immediately if they are found sharing content that exploits or endangers children.

They also stated that WhatsApp bans approximately 250,000 accounts each month suspected of sharing exploitative images of children and that the company relies on all available unencrypted information to detect and prevent this kind of abuse.

Related: How to turn on WhatsApp dark mode

In addition to this, the spokesperson pointed out that links may not necessarily even be active. After it removes a group, the link may remain in Google’s cache for a long time, but effectively be dead.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment. We’ll update this story if the company gets in touch.

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