Updated: Google says they’ve apparently resolved the problem. We’ll update if we hear more about its cause.
A number of sources, including tipsters reporting directly to TechCrunch, as well as Google support forum posters and individuals on Twitter are reporting that Google’s Hangouts service is having some trouble routing instant messages correctly. The bug apparently sees messages sent via legacy Google Talk clients delivered to friends using Hangouts who weren’t addressed in the original as well as to their intended target.
One of our tipsters described exactly how it’s happening: Using Google Talk on Windows 7, they attempted to send messages to work mates and found that they’d been delivered to the wrong employee in one case, and to an ex-employee in another. More than 10 people have now reported the same issue in a Google Group for chat and Hangouts support. And, as you can see from the select sample below, many are reporting the same problem via Twitter.
So far, the issue seems to be limited to Google Talk users attempting to communicate with those who have migrated to Google’s newer instant messaging platform, Google Hangouts, which was updated to encompass text-based communication in addition to video and released as a standalone app in May at Google’s annual I/O developer conference. This issue seems likely to be related to the ongoing technical transition from one service to the other, if that’s the case. Google also just updated Hangouts for Android, so it’s also possible something in that change to the software is resulting in the misfiring messages.
We’ve reached out to Google to see if they can shed more light on this issue, but for now, the best course of action is probably to either avoid using Hangouts or Talk altogether for the time being, or at least to limit yourself to sending messages that you wouldn’t mind being read by anyone in your contact list. This is a fairly serious breach of privacy, so it’s likely Google will move quickly to resolve the bug, but we’ll be sure to let you know when we’ve heard anything definitive.
Update: Google is aware of and looking into the issue, according to a spokesperson, who provided the following statement: “We’re investigating reports of an issue with Google Talk. We’re sorry for the inconvenience. For further updates please refer to the Apps Status Dashboard.”