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WhatsApp Pay in India was possible because of UPI system, says Facebook's Zuckerberg

India Today Tech     December 15, 2020

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in the first virtual conference of Fuel for India, 2020, said WhatsApp payments were only possible because of the unified payment interface (UPI) system and 140 banks that made it easy. WhatsApp Pay started rolling out for Indian users in November in partnership with the National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI).

"We just launched WhatsApp payments in India last month -- now you can send money to your friends and family through WhatsApp, as easily as sending a message. That was possible because of the UPI system that has been built in India," Zuckerberg said during a chat with Reliance Chairman Mukesh Ambani.

"Indians can communicate with one another for less than the cost of a postcard and that's what we've tried to do with messaging and hopefully we can do that together with payments and make it so people can use India's new UPI system, which I think is just great. India is the first country to do anything like this," Zuckerberg added.

The virtual conference happened a day after WhatsApp refuted allegations of the payment system not being secure in the Supreme Court on Monday. The allegations had led to a controversy last year over breach of privacy and financial data security following claims that Indian journalists and human rights activists were among those globally spied upon by unnamed entities.

In a plea, The Pegasus issue was being referred by senior advocate Krishnan Venugopal, appearing for Rajya Sabha MP Binoy Viswam, who had filed a petition alleging breach of data security of Indians using UPI services by Amazon Pay, GooglePay, and others.

A bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde referred to Venugopal's submission and told senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who was appearing for WhatsApp, that a serious allegation was made against WhatsApp that it can be hacked. Sibal, while denying the allegations, said, "Absolutely baseless. There is no such pleading (in the writ petition). It is just an oral submission made across the bar without basis."

Venugopal also asserted that another issue in the case was data localisation. "Problem with WhatsApp, Amazon, and Google is that when they allow payment to happen and data goes abroad. Critical financial data is allowed to be accessed by companies abroad and RBI justifies it. This is a violation of privacy judgment as my data is being grossly misused as these companies then collect this data and use it for advertisement purposes," Venugopal said.

However, WhatsApp in its recent blog post highlighting Apple's requirement for nutrition labels on every app said that it does not track the exact location of users but notes the IP addresses for verification purposes.

(With agency inputs)

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