A flaw in WhatsApp's Online status is aiding stalkers
A WhatsApp user's online status is accessible by anyone and can be tracked using services built to monitor it.
April 15, 2021 / 06:32 PM IST
A service can be built to track the status indicator in WhatsApp
WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app in the world with over two billion active users daily. An oversight with the platform's online status system has, in turn, led to creation of services that track the indicator and tell you whether a person is online or not.
This works because the information is public and can be viewed by anyone. When you open WhatsApp, you are considered 'Online' and this is shown to everyone, even outside of your contact list.
This oversight allows the existence that of status monitoring services that allow you to see who is online by just entering their phone number. As reported on by Traced, there are several services that take advantage one of which allows you to spy on a spouse or give frequent updates to parents on a child's WhatsApp activity.
You can even enter a second phone number and compare the times the two were 'Online' to figure out if they were messaging each other.
A Reddit user going by the handle 'lollygagme' tried this out and watched her partner's activity for a week. She found that she was able to pick up on "patterns where he’s actually having an in-depth back and forth conversation with someone versus him checking in over and over to see if she’s replied back yet."
The important thing to note here is that your 'last seen' status is different and can be turned off by going to Privacy>Last Seen and selecting 'Nobody'. The problem your last seen status is different from your online status which will always tag you as 'Online' when you interact with the app.
There is absolutely no way to turn this off and there is no way to know if someone is using a tracker on you. The only defence is changing your phone number.