WhatsApp claims consistent microphone access is an Android bug
It's an uncomfortable find and worrying until a fix is rolled out.
What you need to know
- A Twitter engineer found that WhatsApp had been accessing their device's microphone throughout the night while not in use.
- The discovery was made on a Pixel 7 Pro but users have reported the issue on other Pixels, the Galaxy S22, and the Galaxy S23 series.
- WhatsApp denies any malicious use and states the issue stems from a bug with the Android software.
WhatsApp is a popular Android messaging app, but it appears the Meta-owned company has run into a particularly worrying issue.
Twitter Engineer Foad Dabiri posted an unsettling photo that showed WhatsApp accessing his phone's microphone quite frequently throughout the early morning hours (via SamMobile). The engineer provided the entire picture stating the app was seen accessing his Pixel 7 Pro's microphone from the time they went to sleep until the time they woke up at 6 am.
What's more, is that this doesn't appear to be a one-off incident. Reports have started appearing with users stating it happened on more Google phones and even a few Samsung models. One user reported having this issue on a Galaxy S22, while others have found the problem on the Galaxy S23 series, as well.
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/pNIfe4VlHVMay 6, 2023
Users in the replies to the engineer's Tweets further discussed their experiences with this problem. One user cited only knowing something was amiss when they noticed the green dot in the top right-hand corner of their Android phone, signaling something was accessing a sensitive piece of hardware such as their microphone or camera.
After the tweet and photo gained traction throughout the day, WhatsApp got involved to defend their app and clarify what could be happening. The company tweeted that it had been in contact with the Twitter engineer who experienced the problem for "the last 24 hours." Furthermore, WhatsApp stated the issue is most likely Android-based as the software is likely misattributing "information in their Privacy Dashboard and have asked Google to investigate and remediate."
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/MnBi3qE6GpMay 9, 2023
WhatsApp further stated the control present in users' hands when using its app. The company tweeted that "Once granted permission, WhatsApp only accesses 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 cannot hear them."
Given the most recent discovery of the problem, we'll have to wait for WhatsApp to figure out what is truly happening — and work with Google (if necessary) to properly rectify the problem. While WhatsApp may have just shown off its Wear OS app for wearables in a new beta but a problem like this may deter people from further engaging until it's solved.
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Nickolas is always excited about tech and getting his hands on it. Writing for him can vary from delivering the latest tech story to scribbling in his journal. When Nickolas isn't hitting a story, he's often grinding away at a game or chilling with a book in his hand.
jaypatelaniThat's why better to use Signal App.Reply
FuziI just checked on my Pixel 6 Pro. Whatsapp hasn't accessed anything. The only thing accessing my microphone is Google Fi when I've been on actual phone calls.Reply