Indian government questions WhatsApp regarding new privacy policy

The ministry has asked WhatsApp to clarify about the services it offers in India, data it collects and the permissions and consents it seeks from the users.

Highlights
  • The Technology Ministry has sent a letter to the popular chat application requesting to withdraw the privacy policy update
  • This comes after the ministry has received several complaints from users
  • WhatsApp has said it is working on addressing the ‘misinformation’ surrounding the updated privacy policy

WhatsApp recently updated its privacy policy to more deeply integrate the platform with Facebook. Users were initially required to accept the updated terms of service before February 8th or delete their WhatsApp account permanently. This caused quite a controversy around the globe and made users look for alternatives. WhatsApp then took a backstep and announced it will postpone the update to May 15th, giving users more time to review the changes. Now, the Indian Government’s Technology Ministry has sent a letter to the popular chat application requesting to withdraw the privacy policy update as it finds that Indian users aren’t given a choice. This comes after the ministry has received several complaints from users, post which it began to evaluate these policies with the existing legal framework in India.

Also read: WhatsApp privacy policy change: Delhi HC judge tells petitioner to ‘use some other app’

Furthermore, the letter said, “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.” The Indian government has also put forward 14 questions in the letter to WhatsApp asking about the data collection practice and other privacy-related issues. The ministry has asked WhatsApp to detail the services the platform provides in India, the data it collects, and the permissions and consents it seeks from the users.

WhatsApp’s new privacy policy

While the Facebook-owned instant messaging platform has not responded to the 14 questions sent by the ministry yet, it has been working on addressing the ‘misinformation’ surrounding the update and said it is ready to answer any questions regarding the privacy policy changes. It clarified yet again that it will not share more user data with Facebook. It said the new policy changes are only to deliver transparency and include new options in the business accounts on the platform to grow. The chat application reiterated that users’ chat, calls, and media will remain private be it in groups or individual chats and nobody at Facebook or WhatsApp will have access to them.

Also read: WhatsApp privacy policy: how the new changes affect you, the average WhatsApp user

The Indian government banned many popular apps like PUBG Mobile, TikTok, AliExpress, and many others last year owing to privacy concerns. Will WhatsApp follow the suit or fix its updated privacy policy that caused the mess is something that remains to be seen at the moment.

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