Google and WhatsApp have confirmed that they are aware of a bug that shows that WhatsApp is accessing the microphones of phones unnecessarily on some Android devices. The issue first surfaced a month ago, but gained new attention after a Twitter engineer tweeted about it in a post raised by Elon Musk.
An image shared by Twitter engineer Foad Dabiri shows the microphone repeatedly running in the background while he is not using the app. He tweeted a screenshot from Android’s Privacy Dashboard, which tracks how often apps access a device’s microphone and camera.
WhatsApp has been using the microphone in the background, while I was sleeping and since I woke up at 6AM (and that’s just part of the timeline!) What happened? pic.twitter.com/pNIfe4VlHV
– Foad Dabiri (@foaddabiri) May 6, 2023
Musk retweeted Dabiri’s post, saying “WhatsApp is untrustworthy.” In fact, Musk is known to be a fan of Signal, and has said that encrypted direct messages on Twitter could be rolled out as soon as this month. The company did not respond to a request for comment.
In a statement shared on Twitter, WhatsApp proposed this is an Android related issue, and not the result of inappropriate access to the microphone in the messaging app “We believe this is a bug in Android putting incorrect information on their Privacy Dashboard and have requested Google to check and fix,” the company said.
Dabiri was not the first to notice the issue. WhatsApp blog wabetainfo highlighted the bug a month ago, describing it at the time as “a false positive” affecting owners of some Pixel and Samsung devices. They added that restarting the phone might be a possible fix. Meanwhile, Google has said little about what might be causing the difference, but has confirmed that it is looking into the matter. “We are aware of the issue and are working closely with WhatsApp to investigate,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement.