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WhatsApp continues to justify privacy update despite govt's objection

WhatsApp said that the proposed changes to its privacy policy do not expand its ability to share user data with Facebook and that it is open to answering questions on the issue

twitter-logoBusinessToday.In | January 20, 2021 | Updated 16:23 IST
WhatsApp continues to justify privacy update despite govt's objection
The government on Tuesday posed 14 questions to WhatsApp about its "invasive" changes to its Terms of Service and Privacy Policy

WhatsApp, which is facing the music from the government over its controversial privacy update, has reaffirmed that personal messages of users continue to be completely encrypted. It reiterated that the proposal is only geared towards making business messaging effective.

The statement from the Facebook-owned messaging platform comes after the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) asked it to withdraw the contentious update to its privacy policy which has sparked fears among users.

WhatsApp said that the proposed changes to its privacy policy do not expand its ability to share user data with Facebook and that it is open to answering questions on the issue.

Also Read: India's stern letter to WhatsApp CEO calls for withdrawal of privacy policy

"We wish to reinforce that this update does not expand our ability to share data with Facebook. Our aim is to provide transparency and new options available to engage with businesses so they can serve their customers and grow," the company said.

WhatsApp added that it will always protect personal messages with end-to-end encryption so that neither WhatsApp nor Facebook can see them. "We are working to address misinformation and remain available to answer any questions," it added.

The government on Tuesday posed 14 questions to WhatsApp about its "invasive" changes to its Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

In a strongly worded letter to WhatsApp CEO Will Cathcart, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has said the proposed changes to WhatsApp's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, without giving users the option to opt-out, "raise grave concerns regarding the implications for the choice and autonomy of Indian citizens."

Also Read: WhatsApp's new privacy policy "very confusing", says Signal co-founder Brian Acton 

The letter noted that with over 400 million users in India, the changes will have a disproportionate impact on the country's citizens, it said. It has also asked WhatsApp to provide details of the services provided by it in India, categories of data collected and permissions and consents sought.

It has also asked WhatsApp to withdraw the proposed changes and reconsider its approach to information privacy, freedom of choice, and data security. WhatsApp had earlier this month begun asking its 2 billion users worldwide to accept an update of its privacy policy if they want to continue using the popular messaging app.

The new terms caused an outcry among technology experts, privacy advocates, and users and triggered a wave of defections to rival services such as Signal and Telegram. Under the updated policy, it has the right to share data it collects from WhatsApp users with the broader Facebook network, which includes Instagram, regardless of owning any accounts or profiles there.

Some businesses, as per the new policy, were to use Facebook-owned servers to store messages. This triggered an outcry regardless of WhatsApp's assertion that all private messages between friends and family members remain end-to-end encrypted.

WhatsApp had on January 16 delayed the introduction of the new privacy policy until May 15 after user backlash over the sharing of user data and information with the parent company, Facebook Inc. "No one will have their account suspended or deleted on February 8. We're also going to do a lot more to clear up the misinformation around how privacy and security works on WhatsApp. We'll then go to people gradually to review the policy at their own pace before new business options are available on May 15," WhatsApp said in a blog post. It also sought to assuage user concerns through its tweets by its Global Head Will Cathcart and even full-page ads in leading dailies in India.

Also Read: BT Buzz: Why WhatsApp's clarification on privacy policy is misleading

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