India asks WhatsApp to revert its controversial privacy policy changes

India asks WhatsApp to revert its controversial privacy policy changes

WhatsApp recently announced a new privacy policy to clarify how the company collects and uses data when a user messages a business. However, because of WhatsApp’s failure to properly educate users on the changes, implications of data sharing with Facebook, a healthy dose of skepticism, and social media being social media, millions of users were up in arms about the changes, with many fleeing to alternative apps like Telegram and Signal. Now, WhatsApp is now being asked to withdraw its new privacy policy by the Indian government.

In a letter written to WhatsApp head Will Cathcart, the IT ministry has pointed out that the changes raise “grave concerns” when it comes to the implication for choice and autonomy of Indian citizens. The government has also said that users in India are being subjected to differential treatment when compared to users in Europe.

“The privacy policy offered by WhatsApp to its European users specifically prohibits the use of any information shared with a Facebook company for that companies’ own purposes, while this Clause is not present in the privacy policy offered to Indian users. This differential and discriminatory treatment of Indian and European users is attracting serious criticism and betrays a lack of respect for the rights and interest of Indian citizens, who form a substantial portion of WhatsApp’s user base.”

Earlier this month, users were alerted with an in-app notification where WhatsApp had asked users to agree to its new privacy policy and terms and conditions. Initially, users were asked to comply with the policy changes by February 8 if they wished to continue using the messaging service. However, WhatsApp recently deferred the date of enforcing the proposed policy to May 15.

“This ‘all-or-nothing’ approach takes away any meaningful choice from Indian users. This approach leverages the social significance of WhatsApp to force users into a bargain, which may infringe on their interests in relation to informational privacy and information security,” said the ministry in the letter.

India currently has the largest number of WhatsApp users around the globe. In an effort to debunk rumors and speculations surrounding the new policy changes, WhatsApp ran front-page ads on several newspapers in India. However, it seems that the attempt was not very successful. Indian IT and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has been tweeting against the new policy changes today saying, “Be it WhatsApp, be it Facebook, be it any digital platform. You are free to do business in India but do it in a manner without impinging upon the rights of Indians who operate there.”

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Kunal Khullar
Kunal Khullar

PC building enthusiast currently exploring the gaming industry. My love for tech began at an early age and I also have a keen interest in photography, music, PUBG Mobile, automobiles and a knack for keeping things clean. Email: [email protected]s.com