According to Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, the Indian government will be investigating allegations that WhatsApp has access to users’ microphone even when their phones are not in use. This follows a viral tweet from a Twitter engineer, Foad Dabiri, who claimed that WhatsApp had been using his microphone while he was asleep, which has got over 70 million views and 6,000 retweets.
“WhatsApp has been using the microphone in the background, while I was asleep and since I woke up at 6AM (and that’s just a part of the timeline!) What’s going on?” Twitter engineer Foad Dabiri tweeted.
Rajeev Chandrasekhar has labeled this alleged privacy violation as “unacceptable” and assured that the government will act on any violations, especially as a new Digital Personal Data Protection bill is being readied. Elon Musk, Twitter CEO and owner, has also criticized WhatsApp, claiming that it cannot be trusted.
Addressing the criticism, WhatsApp attributed the issue to a bug that is present on Google’s Pixel devices. The company stated, “Over the last 24 hours, we’ve been in touch with a Twitter engineer who posted an issue with his Pixel phone and WhatsApp”—and that it is a “bug on Android that mis-attributed information in their Privacy Dashboard, and we have asked Google to investigate and remediate.”
WhatsApp further added, “Users have full control over their mic settings. Once granted permission, WhatsApp only accesses the mic when a user is making a call or recording a voice note or video – and even then, these communications are protected by end-to-end encryption so WhatsApp cannot hear them.”
Lately, WhatsApp has been under scrutiny for several other issues. Multiple users have been complaining about spam calls originating from abroad—where scammers ask for personal data and act as job recruiters—offering simple money-making opportunities by asking unsuspecting users to complete simple tasks, including liking YouTube videos and more.