- WhatsApp faces allegations of accessing microphones on Android devices in the background – A Twitter engineer raised concerns about WhatsApp repeatedly accessing the microphone of his Google Pixel 7 Pro during the night, even when the app wasn't in use. Multiple users also reported similar experiences, leading to widespread discussion.
- WhatsApp denies the claims, attributing the issue to an Android bug – The company stated that the Android Privacy Dashboard misattributed information, asserting that WhatsApp only accesses the microphone during active voice or video calls and voice note recordings. It assured users of their control over microphone settings and the protection of communications through end-to-end encryption.
- Government and Meta respond, investigating the accusations – The government expressed its intent to investigate the allegations against WhatsApp, emphasizing privacy protection. Meta, WhatsApp's parent company, responded, stating that it believes the issue is an Android bug and that Google is investigating it. Both parties emphasized the importance of safeguarding user privacy.
In a recent Twitter post that gained significant attention, a Twitter engineer raised concerns about WhatsApp allegedly accessing the microphones of some Android devices in the background. The engineer, Foad Dabiri, shared a screenshot from his Google Pixel 7 Pro, which showed multiple instances of WhatsApp accessing the microphone during the night, despite the app not being actively used. This issue drew further attention when Tesla CEO Elon Musk retweeted Dabiri's post, emphasizing the importance of trust.
WhatsApp Denies Claims and Attributes Issue to Android Bug
WhatsApp quickly responded to the allegations, dismissing them as a bug within the Android operating system. The company stated that the Android Privacy Dashboard misattributed information, leading to the incorrect perception that WhatsApp was accessing the microphone without user interaction. WhatsApp assured users that they have complete control over their microphone settings and that the app only accesses the microphone during active voice or video calls, or when recording voice notes. Furthermore, WhatsApp emphasized that all such communications are protected by end-to-end encryption.
Users Report Persistent Microphone Access Issue
Following Dabiri's claims, several users on Pixel's support forums and Twitter reported similar experiences. They noted that the green dot indicating microphone activity remained active even after closing or exiting the WhatsApp app. Some users expressed frustration, stating that they had been facing this issue for over a month. By checking the Permissions History in the Android Settings menu, users discovered evidence of WhatsApp accessing the microphone in the background. Android's Privacy Dashboard also displayed microphone activity from WhatsApp, further corroborating these claims.
Government and Meta Respond to the Concerns
The allegations caught the attention of the government and Meta, the parent company of WhatsApp. Rajeev Chandrasekhar, the Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology in India, stated that the government would investigate the accusations against WhatsApp. Chandrasekhar emphasized the significance of privacy violations, even as the new Digital Personal Data Protection bill is being prepared.
Shivnath Thukral, Meta's Director and Head of India Public Policy, responded to the minister's tweet. Thukral asserted that WhatsApp believes the issue is a bug within the Android system and that Google is currently investigating it. He reassured users that their calls and voice notes are protected by end-to-end encryption, ensuring that WhatsApp cannot access the microphone under normal circumstances.
Protecting User Privacy Amidst Concerns
As the controversy surrounding WhatsApp's alleged microphone access unfolds, users remain concerned about the privacy of their personal data. While WhatsApp attributes the issue to an Android bug and emphasizes its commitment to user privacy, the investigation by Google and the government's involvement will shed further light on the matter. Users are advised to stay informed about app permissions, review their Privacy Dashboard, and exercise caution when granting microphone access to any application.