India takes on WhatsApp with fresh warning against new data policy

Edited By: Gravitas desk WION
New Delhi, India Published: May 19, 2021, 10:59 PM(IST)

WhatsApp Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

Earlier this month, WhatsApp relaxed its May 15 deadline to accept the new terms. Before that, the company also said that those who don't accept will lose functionality. Now, WhatsApp has tweaked its FAQs

On May 19, the Indian government gave a final warning to WhatsApp.

Reports say India's ministry for Information technology has sent a letter to the company, which says that WhatsApp must withdraw the new policy.

“In fulfilment of its sovereign responsibility to protect the rights and interests of Indian citizens, the government of India will consider various options available to it under laws in India,” the letter reads.

The company has been given seven days to respond else the Indian government says it will "consider various options available to it" under the Indian law. Earlier this month, WhatsApp relaxed its May 15 deadline to accept the new terms. Before that, the company also said that those who don't accept will lose functionality. Now, WhatsApp has tweaked its FAQs. It has given more time for users to accept the new rules.

The latest version says: “No one will have their accounts deleted or lose functionality of WhatsApp on May 15 because of this update".

Around the world, there has been a massive pushback against WhatsApp's new privacy policy. At least 11 countries have asked Facebook, the company that owns WhatsApp to stop the data sharing policy. These countries are Germany, Ireland, United Kingdom, Brazil, United States, South Africa, Argentina, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Also read: Delhi HC issues notice on Facebook, WhatsApp pleas challenging order on new privacy policy

The bone of contention is the relationship between Facebook and WhatsApp and the kind of data the parent company can take from the application. The new policy dictates the rules on how users will interact with businesses on WhatsApp. WhatsApp maintains that all personal conversations will remain private. But in an earlier post on its website, WhatsApp had shared details about the kind of data it can share with Facebook.

This includes your name, phone number, information about your phone - the make and model and the company that made the phone, your IP address and any payments and financial transactions you made over WhatsApp. These rules don't apply in Europe because these countries have specific laws against this kind of data sharing.

Increasingly, data sharing is becoming worrying for governments around the world. In the US, critics of Facebook are calling it a monopoly. Lawmakers argue that the company is too powerful and should be broken up. India is conducting an investigation of its own. Earlier this year, the Competition Commission of India launched a probe into WhatsApp.

Also read: WhatsApp delays enforcing new privacy terms after Germany halts data sharing

Referring specifically to the privacy policy, the Indian competition watchdog said WhatsApp's "take it or leave it policy" merits a detailed investigation. WhatsApp challenged this in the Delhi High Court but the judge refused to quash the probe.

This means WhatsApp and Facebook will face challenging times ahead and the privacy policy is just the beginning of the scrutiny.

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