Published: Wed, January 20, 2021
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Centre Asks WhatsApp to Withdraw Changes to Privacy Policy

Centre Asks WhatsApp to Withdraw Changes to Privacy Policy

The proposed changes to WhatsApp's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy "raise grave concerns regarding the implications for the choice and autonomy of Indian citizens", it wrote.

The plea has claimed that the new privacy policy of WhatsApp allows full access into a user's online activity without there being any supervision by the government. Delhi High Court had on Monday said using WhatsApp is a "voluntary thing" and users had the choice to not join the platform if they didn't agree with its ToS.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology asked WhatsApp to clarify issues related to its "privacy and data transfer and sharing policies, and general business practices" within seven days. The Indian government's letter said that the new proposed policy ceases any "any meaningful distinction between WhatsApp and Facebook companies" and given the huge user base of both the companies in India, "consolidation of this sensitive information" exposes a "very large segment of Indian citizens" to "greater security risks and vulnerabilities creating a honeypot of information".

WhatsApp also ran front-page ads on several newspapers in India, where it has amassed over 450 million users, last week to explain the changes and debunk some rumors. This, along with the fact that it plays a strategic role in the $5.7B investment made by Facebook in India's largest telco, means that this development may have significant ramifications for the company's plans. "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". Many users began moving away from the platform to rivals like Signal and Telegram. This basically means that companies can only use the data of their users for the specific objective for which users have given their consent.

The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) has also filed a petition in the Supreme Court with the prayer to direct WhatsApp to withdraw its new privacy policy which is encroaching upon various fundamental rights of the citizens granted by the Constitution of India.

Some businesses, as per the new policy, were to use Facebook-owned servers to store messages. MeitY has also raised objections to the differential treatment accorded by WhatsApp to its users in India compared with those in the European Union.

The letter mentions that WhatsApp has notified its users' that it will collect a vast amount of highly invasive and granular metadata from their chats with business accounts and share it with other Facebook companies. "Such a differential treatment is prejudicial to the interests of Indian users and is viewed with serious concern by the government".

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