Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar said on Wednesday, May 10, 2023, that the IT Ministry would investigate a claim that WhatsApp accessed a user’s microphone while he was sleeping. “WhatsApp has been using the microphone in the background, while I was asleep and since I woke up at 6AM,” Foad Dabiri, an engineering director at Twitter said on Saturday. “What’s going on?”
The tweet went viral, attracting over 60 million views. WhatsApp said in a statement posted before Mr. Chandrasekhar’s tweet that the issue was likely a bug. “We believe this is a bug on Android that mis-attributes information in their Privacy Dashboard and have asked Google to investigate and remediate,” the company said after getting in touch with Mr. Dabiri.
“Based on our current investigation, this reported bug in Android affecting WhatsApp users produces incorrect privacy indicators and notifications in the Privacy Dashboard,” a Google spokesperson told The Hindu in an emailed statement on Thursday morning. “We are working to develop a fix for users.” The company had said in an earlier statement on Wednesday that it was investigating the matter.
Mr. Chandrasekhar said that the government’s investigation would happen in spite of the fact that India doesn’t yet have a data protection bill. The IT Ministry “will act on any violation of privacy even as [the] new Digital Personal Data protection bill #DPDP is being readied,” Mr. Chandrasekhar tweeted.
This is not the first time that the government has scrutinised WhatsApp. When the service went down for two hours last October, IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said that he would reach out to WhatsApp for an explanation on the incident. The IT Ministry later said it had no information on the response to this request in response to a Right to Information application filed by The Hindu.