Government pro-actively looking for action on WhatsApp privacy rules issue: MeitY official
Government pro-actively looking for action on WhatsApp privacy rules issue: MeitY official

WhatsApp-the messaging platform, has filed a legal complaint against the government seeking to block regulations from Wednesday. It would compel the firm to break privacy protections, sources told Reuters in an exclusive report.

The bone of contention is a ‘violation of privacy rights’ under the Indian constitution that requires social media companies to identify the ‘first originator of information’ when authorities demand it, Reuters said.

New rules for social media platforms

The deadline to comply with the new legal rules meant for big social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and others ended on May 25. They had to abide by the rules notified in the gazette of India on February 25 under Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code Rules, 2021.

The government's rules will come into effect from May 26.

"If social media companies do not obey the rules, they may lose their status and protections as intermediaries and may become liable for criminal action as per the existing laws of India," top official sources said.

WhatsApp not to limit functionality

WhatApp, the Facebook-owned platform on Monday had said it has sent a reply to the notice by Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) after the ministry directed the Facebook-owned platform to withdraw its controversial user privacy policy.

“As a reminder, the recent update does not change the privacy of people's personal messages. Its purpose is to provide additional information about how people can interact with businesses if they choose to do so," the spokesperson said.

Noting that many Indian users depend on WhatsApp for communicating on a daily basis, the ministry had said in the notice that it is irresponsible for WhatsApp to leverage its position in the Indian market to impose unfair terms and conditions.

As per the ministry, the changes to WhatsApp privacy policy and the manner of introducing the changes undermines the sacrosanct values of informational privacy, data security and user choice and harms the rights and interests of Indian citizens.

The WhatsApp spokesperson said that the company "will not limit the functionality of how WhatsApp works in the coming weeks.

"Instead, we will continue to remind users from time to time about the update as well as when people choose to use relevant optional features, like communicating with a business that is receiving support from Facebook," the spokesperson added.

"We will maintain this approach until at least the forthcoming PDP (personal data protection) law comes into effect".

The MeitY communication had noted that WhatsApp's new privacy policy is a violation of several provisions of the existing Indian laws and rules.

WhatsApp has rolled out its privacy policy globally including in India, where it has more than 400 million users. The users will not immediately lose their accounts or face curtailed functionalities, but they will have to eventually go through limited functions if they fail to accept the new norms in the due course of time.

After persistent reminders, the users will encounter limited functionality on WhatsApp until they accept the updates.

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