Deccan Chronicle

Engg Director claims WhatsApp using microphone while asleep, IT Minister responds

Deccan Chronicle.| Madhusudan Sahoo

Published on: May 10, 2023 | Updated on: May 10, 2023
(Representational image / Photo)

(Representational image / Photo)

New Delhi: Following a complaint made by a smartphone user with WhatsApp in his mobile phone claiming that WhatsApp accessed the microphone during his sleep, the government on Wednesday said that it would take a swift action in this matter and investigate the claim of the smartphone users while the phone was not in use.

In fact, the matter came to light when smartphone user Foad Dabiri, an engineering director highlighted at Twitter on Saturday, saying that WhatsApp has been using the microphone in the background, while I was asleep and since I woke up at 6 AM,"  "What’s going on?"

Replying to Dabiri's tweet, minister of state for electronics and information technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar said on Wednesday "This is an unacceptable breach and violation of privacy. We will be examining this immediately and will act on any violation of privacy even as the new Digital Personal Data Protection bill is being readied.

With this development, Dabiri's tweet went viral, attracting over 65 million views. However, WhatsApp responded it, saying that it has been in touch with the Twitter engineer over the last 24 hours, who posted an issue with his Pixel phone and WhatsApp.

"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," it added.

According to a Statista report, there are over 487 million WhatsApp users in India, making it the biggest market for the company. After this claim, WhatsApp users in India have also reported separately, complaining of a massive surge in incoming international spam calls over the past few days. Many users complained on Twitter that a major chunk of these spam calls had country codes belonging to Indonesia (+62), Vietnam (+84), Malaysia (+60), Kenya (+254) and Ethiopia (+251).

As the story goes, the engineer working with Twitter shared screenshots of his phone which showed WhatsApp accessing and using his handset's microphone at various times even as he was asleep. The screenshots prompted several users, including Twitter and Tesla Inc chief Elon Musk, to raise concerns.

"WhatsApp cannot be trusted," Musk tweeted on the screenshot shared by Dabiri. "Or that WhatsApp founders left Meta/Facebook in disgust, started #deletefacebook campaign & made major contributions to building Signal. What they learned about Facebook & changes to WhatsApp obviously disturbed them greatly."

WhatsApp has been under scrutiny in India over various issues. In October last year, the Meta-owned messaging app saw a two-hour service disruption, prompting the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) to ask the platform to share reasons for the disruption.

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