Google has confirmed that a Privacy Dashboard bug on Android was causing WhatsApp to show constant microphone access, even when the app was not in use. The bug had alarmed many users who feared that WhatsApp was spying on their conversations, but Google has assured them that it was just a glitch and not a privacy breach.
The Privacy Dashboard is a feature introduced with Android 12 that allows users to see which apps are accessing their camera and mic, and when. It is meant to give users more control and transparency over their privacy settings, and to alert them of any suspicious app behavior.
However, some users noticed that WhatsApp was frequently using their microphone, according to the Privacy Dashboard. A Twitter engineer named Foad Dabiri posted a screenshot of his dashboard last month, showing WhatsApp accessing the mic every few minutes. His tweet went viral and attracted the attention of Elon Musk, who commented “WhatsApp cannot be trusted”.
WhatsApp responded to the issue at the time, suggesting that it was an Android bug, and not a problem with the app itself. The company said it does not store messages and recordings permanently, and that it only collects users’ account registration information, transaction data, service-related information, information on how you interact with businesses, mobile device information, and IP address.
Google has now corroborated WhatsApp’s claim and announced that the bug has been fixed. In a tweet from the Android Developers account, Google said:
A recent Android bug affecting a limited number of WhatsApp users produced erroneous privacy indicators and notifications in the Android Privacy Dashboard. Users can now update their WhatsApp app to address this issue. We thank WhatsApp for their partnership and apologize for any confusion this bug may have caused users.
So, if you were worried about WhatsApp listening to you secretly, you can relax and update your app to prevent the false notifications from appearing. The latest WhatsApp update also brings some new features, such as the ability to silence unknown callers and a new Privacy Checkup feature.
The bug had caused a lot of anxiety among Android users, who questioned the security and reliability of WhatsApp. However, it turns out that it was just a mistake on Android’s part that sent wrong information to some users’ Privacy Dashboard. Google’s fix should reassure users and help them feel more confident about their privacy on Android phones.