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Govt tells WhatsApp to withdraw new privacy policy for Indian users, sends a letter to CEO

The Ministry of Information and Technology has written a letter to WhatsApp asking the chat app to not implement its new privacy policy in India.

twitter-logoHimanshu Mishra | January 19, 2021 | Updated 14:38 IST

Highlights

  • IT Ministry sends a letter to WhatsApp, asking it to not implement the new privacy policy in India.
  • The new policy and terms and conditions for WhatsApp use are likely to come into effect after May 15.
  • The new policy will allow WhatsApp to share more usage data with Facebook.

India's Ministry of information and Technology (MEITY) has written a letter to WhatsApp asking it to keep Indian users out of the new privacy policy and the new terms and conditions that users have to accept to use the app. The new WhatsApp policy will allow the chat app to share more usage data with Facebook, which is its parent company, as well as help it rollout an e-commerce component within the app. The letter has been sent to WhatsApp CEO Will Cathcart.

However, the new policy has infuriated users. Millions of users have started using Signal and Telegram, chat apps that compete with WhatsApp, after the new policy started appearing in WhatsApp as a pop-up, asking users to accept it or else lose access to WhatsApp by the end of February. After the uproar, WhatsApp has now pushed the implementation of new policy by May 15.

In its letter to WhatsApp MEITY has raised several questions and objections. The letter notes that sharing of some data including business data generated with WhatsApp with Facebook will weaken the information security of the users.

One of the key objections raised by the MEITY is the non-voluntary nature of the new policy. Users will have to accept it or else they will not be able to use WhatsApp, and MEITY says that this lack of choice is unfair to users. The letter also reminds WhatsApp of Indian Supreme Court judgment on privacy delivered in 2017 and the proposed data protection law. It notes that in this context, WhatsApp coming out with a policy that allows for more data exchange between Facebook and WhatsApp is untenable because the proposed bill allows collection and usage of data for only specific services, and that data collected from one service cannot be used in another service.

The government also takes objection to the fact that WhatsApp has different policies for different users. For example, in the EU the same policy that WhatsApp is forcing on India users will not be implemented. The letter then goes on to ask 14 questions from WhatsApp on how user data is utilised and what sort of privacy protections users get.

WhatsApp's new privacy policy has proved to be extremely controversial. Not only users have started looking at other chat apps in a bid to get out of WhatsApp, but in India, the new policy has also been challenged in the Delhi High Court.

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