A WhatsApp tracking site marketed to catching suspected cheating spouses blames WhatsApp for facilitating the service with its always-on online status feature. The website lets anyone enter the phone numbers of two or more WhatsApp users and see in an easy to understand visualization when each person was using the app, potentially indicating who was talking to who has blamed WhatsApp for allowing such a capability to existing.
“We feel Whatsapp should remove online statuses access from numbers that are not mutual contacts. This is the only reason we can operate; if they do that, we and all the other apps who do the same will not be able to operate,” the administrator of the website told Motherboard in an email.
The comments come after Motherboard reported how WhatsApp stands by its decision not to let users turn off a feature that displays when they are using the app, despite the privacy risks that this can pose and specific security issues for people who may face stalkers or abusive partners.
In WhatsApp, all users display an “online” notification under their profile picture when the app is open. As cybersecurity company Traced found, multiple online services leverages this feature to allow people to easily check whether a WhatsApp user is online without having to start a chat with them, and some of them specifically market themselves for tracking suspected cheating spouses.
The service offers users the ability to see anyone’s online history, receive push notifications when the target does go online, and even predict whether two people are speaking to each other by mapping out their WhatsApp activity.
The administrator told Motherboard they “track sleep patterns, use regression analysis to give you the probability of a chat between two people, for us, it’s just a fun (albeit challenging) way to shed light on the privacy issue.”
On Thursday, WhatsApp told Motherboard it took action against another specific WhatsApp tracking site by suspending the site’s related WhatsApp accounts and sending a cease and desist letter. WhatsApp told Motherboard it believes the same person is behind both sites.