Policy update raises grave concern, says Indian government in a letter to WhatsApp CEO

The policy change was supposed to come into effect on February 8, but the change was postponed by three months
Policy update raises grave concern, says Indian government in a letter to WhatsApp CEO
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After WhatsApp’s privacy policy change came under intense criticism from activists and users alike, the Indian government has asked the Facebook-owned messaging platform to repeal the recent privacy policy changes. The central government said that the unilateral changes are not fair and thus unacceptable. According to reports, the government has sent a list of nearly 14 questions on privacy and data security concerns to WhatsApp.

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.

Earlier, as the updated privacy policy has sparked controversy, WhatsApp had officially announced that it would delay the introduction of changes by three months. However, many users have moved to other messaging platforms such as Signal and Telegram. The policy change was supposed to come into effect on February 8.

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.

Meanwhile, while considering a petition challenging WhatsApp’s updated privacy policy, the Delhi High Court on Monday observed that the messaging platform is a “private app” and the users can decide to use or not. However, a single-judge bench of Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva said that he would not issue notice on the plea until he understands the concern of the petitioner.

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Exploring the WhatsApp conundrum in an age of privacy conscious citizens

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”.

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