Facebook (now known as Meta) has vehemently denied claims that its WhatsApp messaging service persistently accesses smartphone microphones to snoop on users, even when the app is not active, attributing the issue to an Android bug.
The Evening Standard reports that WhatsApp has denied allegations that it continuously accessed smartphone microphones, even when the app was not open, and blamed a bug in the Android phone operating system for the problem. The debate gained momentum after Elon Musk tweeted that “WhatsApp cannot be trusted.”
WhatsApp cannot be trusted https://t.co/3gdNxZOLLy
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 9, 2023
Musk’s tweet followed a post from Twitter engineer Foad Dabiri, who claimed that WhatsApp had secretly been using his phone’s microphone while he was sleeping. In his tweet, Dabiri included a screenshot demonstrating how WhatsApp had periodically accessed his microphone in the early morning. Owners of Samsung and Pixel phones expressed concern and inquired as to why WhatsApp was using their microphones without their express knowledge or consent in response to this revelation, which sparked a wave of related online reports.
WhatsApp responded in a tweet to the growing concerns by stating that the issue was caused by an Android bug that “misattributes information” in the privacy dashboard. The business added that it had contacted Google to look into and “remediate” the situation. A Google spokesperson confirmed they were aware of the matter and said they were “working closely with WhatsApp to investigate.”
Over the last 24 hours we’ve been in touch with a Twitter engineer who posted an issue with his Pixel phone and WhatsApp.
We believe this is a bug on Android that mis-attributes information in their Privacy Dashboard and have asked Google to investigate and remediate. https://t.co/MnBi3qE6Gp
— WhatsApp (@WhatsApp) May 9, 2023
Further clarifying its position, WhatsApp said that it can only access the microphone with the user’s consent, for example, “when a user is making a call or recording a voice note or video.” The business stressed that “These communications are protected by end-to-end encryption so WhatsApp cannot hear them.”
To check if WhatsApp is using your microphone, Android users can follow these steps:
- Go to your Android phone’s settings.
- Select “privacy.”
- Then choose “microphone” to see which apps have recently accessed your mic.
If you want to block all apps from using your mic, you can toggle off microphone access. However, keep in mind that this will also prevent you from making voice or video calls using apps like WhatsApp, Zoom, or Skype.
To see which permissions WhatsApp has access to specifically, follow these steps:
- Go to your phone’s settings and scroll down until you see “apps.”
- Scroll down again and select WhatsApp, or search for it via the search bar.
- Here, you can toggle on or off permissions such as camera and microphone access, among others.
Elon Musk’s criticism of Facebook’s platforms comes as he seems to be positioning Twitter as a potential WhatsApp competitor by promising to add voice and video calls as well as encryption for Twitter direct messages.
Read more at the Evening Standard here.
Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan