Although the issue was solved later and the groups were hidden, some WhatsApp groups and profiles have started showing up again, according to cybersecurity researcher Rajshekhar Rajaharia (via Gadgets 360). According to recent developments, WhatsApp private chat groups and user profiles are coming up on Google search. And this is not the first time such an issue has been addressed. This means you can search for and join private groups just by clicking a link. There were approximately 1,500 WhatsApp group invite links surfacing on Google search recently.
It is said to be even worse this time as users' contact details along with their profile pictures are also visible.
WhatsApp had fixed this issue in the past, then how were the group links still being indexed on Google? All it needs is a simple Google search.
This bug allowed users to join a private WhatsApp group, see their participants and their phone numbers along with the updates shared within the group.
It is not just the private chat groups, but also the user profile information which is indexed in Google. While links that surfaced in November 2019 are nowhere to be found but looks like some cases have come forth now.
A thing worth noting is that the new links which have surfaced on Google do include the "noindex" tag. Rajaharia observed that WhatsApp didn't include the "robots.txt" file on its "chat.whatsapp.com" subdomain, which has resulted in the links surfacing on Google. Robots.txt is a global standard used by developers to instruct search engine crawlers which pages can and can't be processed from their websites.
But, they did once again show up in search results along with user profiles (and their phone numbers). WhatsApp fixed it by including the "noindex" tag on all deep link pages. With the user profiles as well Rajaharia noticed that the "robots.txt" file is missing which might be the reason for them being indexed on Google. While it was being speculated that these vulnerabilities could be a different issue leading to similar results, or a change that unintentionally brought back an old problem, WhatsApp sent out a statement saying that it has sent its feedback to Google to not index these chats.