India Asks WhatsApp to Withdraw New Privacy Policy

  • A letter has been sent to WhatsApp, where the government has expressed strong concern about the terms of service and privacy policy.
  • The "all-and-nothing" approach snatches away any meaningful alternative from Indian users.
  • WhatsApp has launched a media ad campaign in India to appease users.

The Indian government has asked WhatsApp to withdraw its controversial privacy updates and respect “the informational privacy and data security of Indian users.” The government has sent a long list of questions to the company on this issue, saying that a mild update to the tightening of Europe in India is discriminatory for Indian users.

WhatsApp Messenger is a freeware, cross-platform messaging and Voice over IP (VoIP) service owned by Facebook. It allows users to send text messages and voice messages, make voice and video calls, and share images, documents, user locations, and other media.

Sources said that the government has expressed displeasure over the manner in which the matter has been unveiled by the Facebook-owned company and asked to take immediate steps to resolve the matter.

A letter in this regard has been sent to WhatsApp, where the government has expressed strong concern about the terms of service and privacy policy proposed by the company for Indian users.

“Such a differential treatment is prejudicial to the interests of Indian users and is viewed with serious concern by the government,” the ministry wrote in the email.

“The government of India owes a sovereign responsibility to its citizens to ensure that their interests are not compromised and therefore it calls upon WhatsApp to respond to concerns raised in this letter.”

The letter said that updates and data-sharing with Facebook would expose Indian users to “greater security risks and vulnerabilities in creating a honeypot of information,” according to sources.

The government is also against WhatsApp’s “all-or-nothing approach,” where it has asked users to either accept the terms or is ready to log out of the full bouquet of services. The ministry said in the email:

“This ‘all-or-nothing’ approach takes away any meaningful choice from Indian users. This approach leverages the social significance of WhatsApp to force users into a bargain, which may infringe on their interests in relation to informational privacy and information security.”

The Supreme Court of India is the supreme judicial body of India and the highest court of India under the constitution.It is the most senior constitutional court, and has the power of judicial review.

The government is concerned about the “differential treatment” that WhatsApp has followed for Indian users, whose updated status differs for users in Europe, where privacy rules are seen to be lenient.

Sources said that the differential and discriminatory behavior of Indian and European users is attracting severe criticism and shows a lack of respect for the rights and interests of Indian citizens.

A source said, “such differential treatment is prejudicial to the interests of Indian users and is viewed with serious concern by the government.”

The letter went on:

“Since the Parliament is seized of the issue, making such a momentous change for Indian users at this time puts the cart before the horse. Since the Personal Data Protection Bill strongly follows the principle of ‘purpose limitation,’ these changes may lead to significant implementational challenges for WhatsApp should the Bill become an Act.”

The ministry asked WhatsApp to answer fourteen questions, including the type of user data to be collected, customer descriptions based on usage, and cross-border data flow.

The company said last week that it would move the new policy from February to May after users in India and other regions criticized the new terms.

WhatsApp has launched a media ad campaign in India to appease users. The privacy policy update also led to two lawsuits in Indian courts.

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Benedict Kasigara

I have been working as a freelance editor/writer since 2006. My specialist subject is film and television having worked for over 10 years from 2005 during which time I was the editor of the BFI Film and Television.

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