As per a latest report, Facebook-owned messaging platform WhatsApp has a status flaw that allows stalkers track users on the app. The report comes from Traced, a mobile security app, that suggests stalkers are using WhatsApp Online Status Tracker websites to stalk users and get access to their personal data. The report further states that these trackers can also find out who is texting whom, of course without them knowing. Also Read - How to find archived WhatsApp chats on Android
Update: WhatsApp spokesperson told BGR India, “We provide a setting to allow people to choose who can view the time a user was ‘last seen’ within WhatsApp. To help prevent abuse, we regularly work with app stores to seek the removal of apps that attempt to violate our terms of service. We have banned the WhatsApp accounts associated with such websites, requested Google remove such apps from the Play Store, and also take legal action, as appropriate. Automating WhatsApp’s features to scrape information is a violation of our terms of service and we will continue to take action to protect the privacy of our users and help prevent abuse.” Also Read - WhatsApp iOS to Android chat history migration now available on Pixel, Android 12 devices
“Cyberstalkers typically like to collect as much information about their target as possible. They want to know where they are at any given moment; who they’re meeting; who they’re talking to; what their texts say; who they’re emailing; what they’re browsing for online. Knowledge is power, and having this level of power over someone is intoxicating, dangerous and profoundly unethical,” the report states. Also Read - If WhatsApp chats are end-to-end encrypted, how celebs are getting in the soup?
It is said that WhatsApp status trackers are continuously able to monitor users’ status even when they are not online. Usually, WhatsApp shows status of users as to whether they are “online” or not but these trackers are a step head. These trackers are able to monitor users’ status even when they are not online.
Traced report highlights that CTO Matt Brody used a few of these WhatsApp status trackers and they showed the exact time and date the user was online. Using these apps is extremely simple, all you need to do is, enter the concerned person’s WhatsApp number on the status tracker app or website and it will show when the user came online and for how long.
The report further reveals that one of these tracking apps let users find out if he/she is cheating on them. The app states, “If you suspect a cheating spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, for example [WhatsApp last seen tracker online can help you to confirm whether your suspicions are really true”.
Stating another use case, the report highlights that another tracker provides children’s status updates to parents. There are many such similar apps available that allow parents keep tab on their children. Such apps are also often misused to spy on people, especially spouses and partners.
Google previously banned the advertising such stalkerware on the Play Store but you will still find several such tracking apps that have managed to get around on the platform. Google states, “acceptable forms of these apps can be used by parents to track their children. However, these apps cannot be used to track a person (a spouse, for example) without their knowledge or permission unless a persistent notification is displayed while the data is being transmitted.”
“There is, however, nothing to stop someone who wants to track an ex, a girl- or boyfriend, a spouse, from using one of these apps. Although the installation of software without the phone user’s consent or knowledge is actually against the law, it’s hardly enforceable, and if the app presents itself as a family tracker, there is no need for it to alert the user about the data it is transmitting,” the report notes.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing that WhatsApp can do about it. The messaging platform can’t do anything to prevent these apps and websites from tracking users. Commenting on the matter, Eva Galperin, Director of Cybersecurity, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said, “This is just sloppy work on the part of WhatsApp and a typical example of what happens when companies don’t think about abusive relationships when they’re making their design decisions. WhatsApp should have given users the power to turn off their online status from the very beginning, and they need to fix this ASAP.”