WhatsApp, the popular messaging app owned by Meta, has been under scrutiny in India over various issues, including the alleged mic recording issue, international spam calls, and sextortion scandals. Let’s understand each of these issues in detail.
Mic Recording Issue
Recently, a Twitter engineer, Foad Dabiri, claimed that WhatsApp accessed the microphone of smartphone users while the phone was not in use, including when he was sleeping. His tweet went viral, attracting over 65 million views. Following this, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, the Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology, tweeted that the government would investigate the alleged breach of privacy. In response, WhatsApp said it had been in touch with the Twitter engineer and claimed that users have full control over their mic settings. The company also said that it had asked Google to investigate and remediate what it believed was a bug on Android that misattributes information in their Privacy Dashboard.
International Spam Calls
In another scam, millions of WhatsApp users in India have been receiving international spam calls, mostly from African and Southeast Asian countries, which has left many at risk of financial loss. Users have been flooding Twitter to share their ordeal. WhatsApp has been unable to control the spam calls, leaving users with no other option but to block the numbers.
Some WhatsApp users in India have also become victims of sextortion bids. A victim narrated his ordeal to BOOM Live, stating that he received a WhatsApp video call from an unknown number, which he attended. After disconnecting, he later received a video message from that number, which featured his video from the call but with added nude and obscene footage. The scammer then attempted to blackmail him with the doctored footage. Similar incidents have been reported by others.
Is WhatsApp Actually Safe?
WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption mechanism has been based on Open Whisper Systems’ open-source Signal protocol since 2014, which secures practically all communication on the network. However, WhatsApp collects a lot of information on users outside the chat interface, such as contact lists, location, device identifiers, and transaction history.
How to Protect Yourself
To protect yourself from these scams, it is essential to not answer international spam calls, as they are harmful, and users should not respond to them. Users can also block the numbers to avoid any further calls. In the case of sextortion, users must be careful when receiving video calls from unknown numbers, as this could be an attempt to record a private conversation