WhatsApp Mic Bug: Google Apologizes and Fixes the Issue

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.

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