If you’re a big WhatsApp user, I implore you: Stop posting links to your group chats publicly. And tell everyone in your group to resist the urge, too. All it takes is one not-so-tech-savvy user to accidentally give anyone with the slightest bit of knowledge about search operators a way to join your group, see your members’ phone numbers, and cause all sorts of fun.
Don’t believe me? See for yourself.
Your WhatsApp groups may not be as secure as you think they are.
The "Invite to Group via Link" feature allows groups to be indexed by Google and they are generally available across the internet. With some wildcard search terms you can easily find some… interesting… groups. pic.twitter.com/hbDlyN6g3q
— Jordan Wildon (@JordanWildon) February 21, 2020
While I fully expect WhatsApp to prevent Google from crawling its website at some point, an initial comment from a WhatsApp spokesperson to Motherboard doesn’t leave me with a lot of initial hope:
“Group admins in WhatsApp groups are able to invite any WhatsApp user to join that group by sharing a link that they have generated. Like all content that is shared in searchable, public channels, invite links that are posted publicly on the internet can be found by other WhatsApp users. Links that users wish to share privately with people they know and trust should not be posted on a publicly accessible website.”
Going forward, I recommend not using the “invite by links” option if you’re looking to add people to a WhatsApp group—at least, not copying it and pasting it to a public website. It’s best to directly add your contacts to a group.
Otherwise, you can use a link to invite people (and share that link via the app). But once you’ve sent out a decent batch of invites and everyone is in your group, use your admin powers to reset the link and don’t share the new link WhatsApp creates for you.
This should keep your group hidden, as a WhatsApp spokesperson told AdWeek that, “a group link can only be found online if the invite link was posted on the open internet, on a publicly accessible website, which only applies to a small minority of groups…”