WhatsApp: IT ministry directs company to withdraw new privacy policy

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Amid a lot of speculations on the Facebook-owned WhatsApp privacy policy update that recently went live on the app, India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has directed WhatsApp to withdraw the updated policy.

WhatsApp had earlier claimed that it officially deferred its new Privacy Policy beyond 15th May, 2021. However, the Ministry in its communication on Tuesday, 18 May, 2021, stated that “deferral of the privacy policy beyond 15th May 2021 does not absolve WhatsApp from respecting the values of informational privacy, data security and user choice for Indian users,” the IT Ministry said in a statement seen by Mint.

The IT Ministry believes that the changes to WhatsApp privacy policy and the manner of introducing the said changes “undermines the sacrosanct values of informational privacy, data security and user choice and harms the rights and interests of Indian citizens,” it said in a statement.

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The Ministry, in its communication, has drawn attention to WhatsApp as to how its new privacy policy is a violation of several provisions of the existing Indian laws and rules.

To this effect, the government has given seven days to WhatsApp to respond to the notice and if no satisfactory response is received, necessary steps in consonance with law will be taken, the statement read.

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

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The Ministry has also strongly taken up the issue of WhatsApp’s ‘discriminatory treatment’ to Indian users vis-a-vis users in Europe.

It has stated that: “As you are doubtlessly aware, many Indian citizens depend on WhatsApp to communicate in everyday life. It is not just problematic, but also irresponsible, for WhatsApp to leverage this position to impose unfair terms and conditions on Indian users, particularly those that discriminate against Indian users vis-à-vis users in Europe.”

To be sure, WhatsApp had recently said that it will go ahead with its controversial privacy policy update but will allow users to read it at “their own pace” and will also display a banner providing additional information.

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For this, the instant messaging app had faced severe backlash over user concerns that data was being shared with its parent company, Facebook.

It has highlighted that the changes to the privacy policy and the manner of introducing the changes including by way of FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) undermines the values of privacy, data security and user choice.

The ITMinistry has also taken the same stand in the Delhi High Court, where this matter is sub-judice, the source pointed out.

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