Google’s Chat Service Redirected Messages To Random Contacts

Users complain about privacy, as their Google Hangouts and Google Talk messages reach wrong recipients

From about 7:00am to 12:15pm on Thursday, Google Hangouts instant messaging service, sometimes referred to as Gchat, was redirecting some messages to random recipients from the user’s contact list.

The issue was first reported on Twitter, after hundreds of users were shocked to discover their secrets had been shared with the wrong people. The problem also affected the users of Google Apps for Business, including those who didn’t yet make the transition from Google Talk to Google Hangouts.

“The issue has been resolved and all services are gradually returning to normal. We will update when full service is restored,” read the latest statement on the Google Apps status dashboard.

There is currently no information on what caused this unusual glitch.

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Google began investigating the issue at 9:32am, several hours after reports about it first surfaced on Twitter. In the next status update, the company admitted its messaging service “wasn’t functioning correctly”, and said engineers were working to restore full functionality.

According to Hangouts users, there was no clear pattern to the way the service was reshuffling messages, but it is believed that all of them were sent to already existing contacts. The issue affected all platforms, including smartphones.

Google has attempted to downplay the problem, and has not issued any statement besides the status updates. Meanwhile, users on the Hangouts forum have described it as a “critical security breach”, and a “fatal privacy issue”.



This is not the first time ‘Gchat’ has experienced a mysterious glitch. In July 2012, Google Talk service, which eventually morphed into Google Hangouts, went down, with the majority of users around the world complaining they were unable to send messages to their contacts. Back then, Google also refused to confirm the cause.

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