A claim made by Foad Dabiri against WhatsApp, the popular messaging application owned by Meta, argues that the device’s microphone recorded him without permission before posting the story on social media.
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? pic.twitter.com/pNIfe4VlHV
— Foad Dabiri (@foaddabiri) May 6, 2023
Dabiri tweeted this was happening while he was asleep and Elon Musk, CEO of Twitter, responded in the discussion that “WhatsApp cannot be trusted.” Dabiri shared a picture that showed the microphone being activated every two minutes between 4:20 a.m. and 6:53 a.m.
WhatsApp responded by claiming that it was a bug on Android. The company stated they had been in contact with a Twitter engineer who posted an issue with his Pixel phone and WhatsApp. They believe that this is a bug on Android that inaccurately programmed information in their Privacy Dashboard, but have since asked Google to investigate and remediate the issue.
This comes just months after a WhatsApp data breach that exposed the private information of some 500 million customers.
Users apparently have full control over their mic settings, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. Once granted permission, WhatsApp should only access 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 shouldn’t hear them.
Despite this reassurance, many Twitter and Reddit users have claimed that they have experienced WhatsApp activating the microphone in the background. Some have even gone as far as deleting the app.
Elon Musk weighed in on the matter, stating that many Americans are unaware that WhatsApp was owned by Meta/Facebook. Musk went on to say that “WhatsApp founders left Meta/Facebook in disgust; starting a #deletefacebook campaign. What they learned about Facebook and recent changes to WhatsApp obviously disturbed them greatly.”
The breach is a major concern as over two billion people use WhatsApp globally, and the possibility of such things being compromised is extremely alarming. Given what we’ve seen in the past about efforts to control the narrative from social media, it’s not hard to believe that things can be compromised.
It’s important to be aware of the settings and permissions that are granted to these apps and to regularly check for any unusual activity. WhatsApp has stated that they are working on fixing the bug and addressing the issue, but users should remain vigilant and take precautions to protect their privacy.