In a letter to WhatsApp CEO Will Cathcart, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said that India provides the company’s largest user base. They added that the proposed policy changes would “raise grave concerns regarding the implications for the choice and autonomy of Indian citizens”. The ministry also asked WhatsApp to reconsider the way they handle information privacy, freedom of choice, and data security.
WhatsApp had issued a clarification in this matter stating that the update “does not affect data sharing with Facebook” with regards to personal conversations or other profile information. However, it addresses their application for business purposes, especially when users chat with a company’s customer service platform through WhatsApp.
In India, the Aadhar card issue and the discourse around privacy have been interesting, especially since we do not even have a data protection law. The one we have is still in its late deliberations stage in the Parliament committee. Interestingly, if the Facebook-owned company decides to reply in the negative, the Centre has no ammunition in its legislative sleeve to counter the “grave concerns”.