Google finally acknowledged and fixed an Android bug that caused WhatsApp to gain unauthorized access to a smartphone’s microphone.
If you’re not super familiar with the story, around early April some people began noticing, and reporting online, that the software was using their device's mic without their consent. This issue came to a head on May 6 when Twitter engineer Foad Dabiri noticed WhatsApp had gained access to the microphone on his Pixel 7 Pro at least nine times in one morning. Every time the error occurred, a notification appeared informing him of what happened. WhatsApp’s official Twitter account responded, claiming the problem was caused by an Android bug misattributing information on the phone’s Privacy Dashboard, and then proceeded to ask Google to quickly roll out a fix. It took the tech giant nearly two months to recognize the issue, but fortunately, that day has arrived.
The official Android Developers Twitter account recently stated the bug only affected a “limited number of WhatsApp users”, explaining why it wasn’t a widespread problem. To patch up the security error and stop those notifications, Google states all you have to do is install the latest version of WhatsApp, which we strongly recommend you do.
To this day, no one knows what caused the microphone bug in the first place. Technical details surrounding the error are almost nonexistent as neither Google nor Meta (WhatsApp's parent company) has revealed any specifics. There's not even anything about it in the Android 13 changelog on the Android Developer website.
But the one thing that can be said is nothing was actually recorded. As clarified by WABetaInfo, WhatsApp didn’t actually gain access to the microphone on anyone's mobile device. It just triggered the notifications causing them to go a little haywire. This in turn resulted in some people online thinking they were being spied on or their privacy was being violated, but in truth, nothing of the sort happened. We reached out to Google to see if the company is willing to divulge any extra information about the fix. This story will be updated if we hear back.
Having the piece of mind of knowing your information is safe and nothing is being recorded is vital for many users. However, software can’t solve everything. If you want to take your security to the next level, be sure to check out TechRadar’s list of the most secure smartphones for June 2023.