Whatsapp defends its new privacy policy again after IT Ministry directs WhatsApp to withdraw
Whatsapp defends its new privacy policy again after IT Ministry directs WhatsApp to withdraw
Photo by Anton from Pexels

The government has ordered WhatsApp to withdraw its controversial new privacy policy, saying the changes undermine the sacrosanct values of privacy, data security and harms rights and interests of Indian citizens. But the messaging service stated that the this update does not impact the privacy of personal messages for anyone.

On May 18, the Ministry of Electronics and IT sent a letter to WhatsApp warning that necessary steps in accordance with law will be taken if a satisfactory response was not received within seven days.

The ministry has taken a strong position on the matter, and made it clear that it is not just problematic but also "irresponsible" for the messaging platform to leverage its position to impose "unfair" terms and conditions on Indian users. WhatsApp has 53 crore users in India as per government data.

When contacted, a WhatsApp spokesperson said the company continues to engage with the government. "... we reaffirm what we said before that this update does not impact the privacy of personal messages for anyone... we'll take every opportunity to explain how we protect people's personal messages and private information," the spokesperson added.

In its letter dated May 18, the ministry has drawn attention of WhatsApp as to how its new privacy policy is a violation of several provisions of the existing Indian laws and rules.

In fulfilment of its sovereign responsibility to protect the rights and interests of Indian citizens, the government will consider various options available to it under laws in India, the sources at the ministry said.

A raging debate had ensued after WhatsApp had said it will update its terms of service and privacy policy around how it processes user data and partners with Facebook to offer integrations across the social media giant's products.

The application faced severe backlash over user concerns that data was being shared with parent company Facebook.

Earlier this week, WhatsApp told the Delhi High Court that while its new privacy policy has come into effect from May 15, it would not start deleting accounts of those users who have not accepted it and would try to encourage them to get on board.

The platform had said there was no universal or uniform time limit after which it will start to delete accounts as each user would be dealt with on a case-to-case basis.

In January this year, WhatsApp had informed users about the changes in its terms of service and public policy through an in-app notification. Users were initially given time till February 8 to agree to the new terms in order to continue using the platform.

According to WhatsApp, the key updates include more information about its service and how it processes user data; how businesses can use Facebook hosted services to store and manage their WhatsApp chats; and how WhatsApp partners with Facebook to offer integrations across the company products.

WhatsApp also insisted that the acceptance of the privacy policy update does not expand its ability to share user data with Facebook. However, widespread criticism over WhatsApp's alleged sharing of user information with Facebook had forced the messaging platform to postpone the February deadline to May 15.

(To receive our E-paper on whatsapp daily, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)

Free Press Journal

www.freepressjournal.in