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Was WhatsApp secretly listening to you? Google says it was just a bug

Google has revealed that WhatsApp wasn't listening to some users as the Android Privacy Dashboard suggested.

Published onJune 21, 2023

whatsapp icon google pixel 4 xl
  • Google has confirmed a Privacy Dashboard bug affecting WhatsApp.
  • The bug resulted in erroneous microphone usage notifications for WhatsApp.
  • Google says you need to update WhatsApp to resolve the issue.

Is WhatsApp listening to your real-world conversations? There’s a chance your Android phone’s Privacy Dashboard might think so, but Google has now revealed that this is a bug.

Twitter user Foad Dabiri noted last month that his phone’s Privacy Dashboard showed WhatsApp was frequently using his microphone. The Privacy Dashboard for Android allows you to get a log of when apps are using your phone’s permissions, and Dabiri’s log showed WhatsApp accessing the mic every few minutes. Check out his screenshot below.

WhatsApp responded to the issue at the time, suggesting this was an Android bug, and Google has now corroborated this claim (h/t: Mishaal Rahman):

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 you should go ahead and update WhatsApp if your phone was showing these alerts. Then again, will it dissuade any of us that our phones aren’t listening to us in the first place?

In any event, the latest stable WhatsApp update also brings the ability to silence unknown callers as well as a new Privacy Checkup feature. So even if you’re not suffering from this issue, you might want to update anyway.

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