Govt to examine WhatsApp's user policy changes

Marco Green
January 14, 2021

"WhatsApp shares certain categories of data - including account registration information (e.g. phone number), how users interact with others (including businesses), and the user's IP address-with Facebook for purposes such as promoting safety and integrity, fighting spam improving infrastructure & delivery systems, & providing integrations which enable users to connect their WhatsApp experiences with other Facebook Company Products and personalizing content (including ads & friend suggestions) across the Facebook Company Products", said the PTA quoting the company. "People should have choices in how they communicate and feel confident that no one else can see their chats", Cathcart said.

"Millions of people value privacy enough to sustain it, and we're trying to demonstrate that there is an alternative to the ad-based business models that exploit user privacy", Acton said, adding donations were "pouring in". We think competition on privacy is good because it will help make apps even more private and secure in the future, he added.

Asked if the government has sought clarification on the matter, Cathcart said: "We remain available to answer any questions and to explain our continued commitment to the privacy and security of users across India".

This comes after WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned messaging giant, sparked a public outcry about a recent update to its terms.

In past years, WhatsApp has drawn flak from the government over misuse of the platform for the spread of misinformation.

While WhatsApp's payment service, approved by India's flagship payments processor late last year after two years of waiting, does not fall under the privacy policy update, any sizeable user shift to other messengers could mean losing out to well-entrenched rivals.

WhatsApp had informed users about the changes in its terms of service and public policy, through an in-app notification last week.

The Information Regulator said it made contact with Facebook South Africa, which provided it with a WhatsApp privacy policy that was revised on 4 January. It said that users will have to agree to the new terms and policy by February 8, in order to continue using the platform. Many users have also started shifting to rival platforms like Telegram and Signal, and these platforms have seen millions of downloads globally in the immediate aftermath of the event.

The new privacy policy will have zero impact on private messages and calls with your friends and family, according to WhatsApp.

In addition, WhatsApp stated that it cannot keep logs of who everyone is messaging or calling, see the shared location and neither can Facebook.

Cathcart argued that some apps claim to have end-to-end encryption for group chats, and do no such thing.

"For the limited categories of data WhatsApp does collect, it takes measures to restrict access to that information".

Livemint had reported on Wednesday that privacy advocates were demanding that the PDP Bill be modified to include provisions to shield citizens from "arbitrary" modifications to terms of service by intermediaries such as the current WhatsApp privacy policy update.

More than two billion people in over 180 countries use the app, which is now available as a free download.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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