Won’t accept unilateral changes to privacy policy: Centre to WhatsApp

The Indian government wrote to WhatsApp on Tuesday and said any unilateral changes to the social messaging app’s terms of service or privacy will not be acceptable to the government, media reports said. The Centre has also asked the instant messaging platform to withdraw the recent changes it made to its privacy policy.

The moves comes after the instant messaging app received a lot of backlash in India over its new privacy policy. The new policy has raised concerns among many sections of the society with many experts alleging that the company was sharing data with its parent company, Facebook.

The Centre earlier said it is investigating WhatsApp’s new privacy policy and asserted sanctity of personal communication needs to be maintained. WhatsApp, on its part, has maintained messages on the platform are end-to-end encrypted and that neither WhatsApp nor Facebook can see the private messages on WhatsApp's platform.

In a strongly worded letter to WhatsApp CEO Will Cathcart, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said India is home to the largest user-base of WhatsApp and is one the biggest markets for its services. The proposed changes to the WhatsApp Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, without giving users an option to opt-out, "raise grave concerns regarding the implications for the choice and autonomy of Indian citizens," the ministry said.

The ministry asked WhatsApp to withdraw the proposed changes and reconsider its approach to information privacy, freedom of choice and data security.

With over 400 million users in India, the changes will have a disproportionate impact on the country's citizens, the Centre noted. It also asked WhatsApp to provide details of the services provided by it in India, categories of data collected and permissions and consents sought. WhatsApp has been asked to explain if it conducts profiling of Indian use­rs on the basis of their usage, as well as explain differences between the privacy policy in India and other countries. WhatsApp has been asked to provide policy on data and information security, privacy and encryption.

It has asked the platform to detail data sharing with other apps and if it captures information about other apps running on the mobile phones of the user.

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