WhatsApp is rewriting the definition of privacy to suit its business in India

Edited By: Gravitas desk WION
New Delhi, India Published: Jan 13, 2021, 10.11 PM(IST)

File photo. Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

WhatsApp has over 2 billion users, out of which 400 million are from India. Recently, many users in India changed their WhatsApp display pictures to "boycott WhatsApp" logos

WhatsApp has over 2 billion users, out of which 400 million are from India. Recently, many users in India changed their WhatsApp display pictures to "boycott WhatsApp" logos.

Now, messages are being circulated over the application urging people to stop using it.

The service is spending lakhs of rupees to retain users. And WhatsApp's parent company, with its abysmal track record in privacy, is now defining privacy for Indians. WhatsApp's biggest market is India, but Indian users are among the most vulnerable.

On Wednesday, India woke up to full-page advertisements that read - "WhatsApp respects and protects your privacy".

The ads went on to claim the following - "Respect for your privacy is coded into our DNA".

"We cannot see your private message or hear your calls... WhatsApp cannot see your shared location, and neither can Facebook", it added.

For the third time, WhatsApp was attempting to sell its new privacy policy. The ads were plastered on at least four leading Indian newspapers, and many were on the front page.

But why would WhatsApp spend so much money on this PR gimmick? As a free service, what could it lose?

WhatsApp is neither free, nor a service. It is a business, and we are paying kind, or in other words, data. WhatsApp says it will not share your personal chats with Facebook.

But what will it share? Whenever you message a business on WhatsApp, Facebook will know your payment method including shipping details, transaction amount. In addition, Facebook will use the data to show you similar ads on its platform and on Instagram.

Also read: 'It stays between you': WhatsApp issues clarification after update in privacy policy

If you have a business account, Facebook will track your group name, group picture, group description, payments, or any other business features. It will also know whether you are online, and when you were last online.

Whatsapp says it won't read you personal chats, so there's no way it is breaching your privacy. But this basis is flawed, for it assumes that business chats are not private/
WhatsApp is rewriting the definition of privacy to suit its business. This is what the ad said - "We want to be clear that the policy update does not affect the privacy of your messages with friends or family in any way. Instead, this update includes changes related to messaging a business on WhatsApp".

Also read: Final nail in coffin: Telegram again trolls Whatsapp over new privacy update

There's no scope for redressal in India, for the country does not have a data protection law. Whatsapp would not have been able to go ahead with this update in India with data protection in place. 

Europe has the GDPR, or the General Data Protection Regulation. Owing to this law, European WhatsApp users cannot be forced to share their data with Facebook.

80 countries have data protection laws in place, and India is not one of them. Users now have two options - to either share their data, or to simply lose access to the application. And the update comes into force on February 8.

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