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More Troubles for WhatsApp? India’s IT Ministry Calls for New Privacy Policy Withdrawal

Updated: Aug 20, 2021

Advertisements by WhatsApp on 13 January 2021. Credit: Sajjad HUSSAIN / AFP via Getty Images

India’s IT Ministry called on WhatsApp to withdraw their new privacy policy in an email saying it takes away Indian users’ freedom of choice.

The Ministry said in an email dated 18 January to Will Cathcart, WhatsApp’s head, that the all-or-nothing approach of the new privacy policy takes away “any meaningful choice” from Indian users. It may also infringe on Indian users’ interests in informational privacy and information security.

This is after WhatsApp updated its privacy policy to further integrate with Facebook, its parent company. The new privacy policy allows WhatsApp to automatically send users’ information to Facebook for the latter to provide targeted ads to users.

The Hindustan Times and Reuters also reported that the Ministry is also seeking clarification from WhatsApp regarding the exemption of its European users from the updated privacy policy while their Indian counterpart is required compliance.

The Ministry said that the exemption is discriminatory to its Indian users and its differential treatment between European and Indian users attracted serious criticism and “betrays a lack of respect for the rights and interests of [its] citizens.”

The ministry also added that the exemption is harmful to Indian users’ interests and is looked upon with grave concern by the Indian government, who owes a “sovereign responsibility” to its citizens to ensure their interests remain uncompromised.

India’s IT Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, tweeted a video of him stating that any digital platform is free to do business in India as long as personal privacy remains uncompromised.

WhatsApp is hugely popular in India with 400 million users and counting according to TechCrunch and Reuters. The app is so popular that the locals use the app to send court summons and notices due to the COVID-19 pandemic

WhatsApp has since delayed the new privacy policy’s implementation until 15 May while using the time to clarify the misinformation around how privacy and security work on its messaging app.

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