A mysterious phenomenon is worrying users of WhatsApp on Android: the application seems to be accessing the microphone even when it shouldn’t. This can be seen thanks to the “green dot” that appears on the screen when the microphone or camera is active. This means that Is WhatsApp spying on us?
The “green dot” indicator was introduced by Android 12 to increase transparency on the use of permissions by apps. Indeed, in the Privacy Dashboard of Android 12 it is possible to see the history of the use of the microphone by the various applications. And this is exactly where some users have discovered that WhatsApp for Android accesses the microphone at times when it shouldn’t.
WhatsApp spies on us through the microphone?
Foad Dabirian engineer at Twitter, made a post saying his Pixel 7 Pro was buzzing nine accesses to the microphone by WhatsApp while he was sleeping. And that’s not the only one: other users have reported the same problem on different smartphone models, both Pixel and Samsung.
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
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Faced with these reports, many wondered if WhatsApp was spying on users’ conversations without their consent. However WhatsApp, which we recall is owned by Meta, denied any responsibility and blamed it on an Android bug.
In a tweet, the company said it “believes” it’s an error in Android’s Privacy Dashboard, which “incorrectly assigns” microphone use to WhatsApp. Meta also said it has contacted Google to ask for an investigation into the issue.
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
In a response, Meta reiterated that “users have full control over the microphone settings” and that the app only uses the microphone when the user makes a call or sends a voice/video note.