The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) on Tuesday wrote to Will Cathcart, the worldwide Chief Executive Officer of WhatsApp, asking him to withdraw the newest privateness and coverage replace on the moment messaging platform, which, it mentioned, enabled WhatsApp and different Facebook firms “to make invasive and precise inferences about users”.
Collection and sharing of delicate information such because the time, frequency and period of interactions, group names or funds and transaction information with Facebook firms will create an ecosystem the place any distinction between WhatsApp and different firms of the Facebook group will stop to exist, the IT ministry mentioned.
“This approach has the potential to infringe on core values of data privacy, user choice and autonomy of Indian users. Given the huge user base of WhatsApp and Facebook in India, the consolidation of this sensitive information also exposes a very large segment of Indian citizens to greater information security risk and vulnerabilities creating a potential honeypot of information,” the IT ministry mentioned within the letter to Cathcart.
The up to date coverage phrases had been first introduced by WhatsApp through an in-app notification, asking customers to agree to these by February 8 or lose entry to their accounts. Following protests by each customers and privateness activists, WhatsApp had on January 15 introduced that it was delaying the implementation of the modifications to May 15.
The letter to Cathcart additionally took umbrage at WhatsApp’s accept-the-terms-or-leave-the-platform stance for customers in India when the identical was not relevant to its European customers. Such discriminatory therapy, the ministry mentioned, “betrays a lack of respect for the rights and interests” of Indian customers who shaped a considerable portion of its international consumer base and takes away “any meaningful choice” from them.
“The Government of India is also concerned with the way in which Indian users have been made subject to these changes. By not providing Indian users with the ability to opt out of this data sharing with other Facebook companies, WhatsApp is treating users with an all-or-nothing approach”, the letter mentioned.
With over 400 million customers, India is among the greatest markets for WhatsApp. As of July 2020, the corporate had greater than 50 million WhatsApp Business customers globally, of which over 15 million used the service in India each month.
Following WhatsApp’s announcement that it might replace its privateness coverage, Signal turned one of many prime downloaded apps on Android and Apple platforms in India final week. Just over the past fortnight, Signal noticed almost 23 lakh downloads, in contrast to 17 lakh downloads for WhatsApp.
In its replace to the phrases of service, WhatsApp had mentioned that the brand new guidelines wouldn’t apply to customers within the European Union, who had been coated by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The GDPR permits customers to know which a part of their information is being harvested by firms and in what particular methods.
Several privateness coverage consultants, whereas mentioning that the European Union has a really strict information safety regulation, have known as for pressing and immediate implementation of the info safety Bill that has been within the works in India for a while now.
While paying attention to this, the letter mentioned that WhatsApp’s change in privateness insurance policies for Indian customers, at a time when Parliament was deliberating the brand new Personal Data Protection invoice, “puts the cart before the horse”.
The IT ministry has additionally despatched a set of 14 questions to Cathcart, which relate to the proposed coverage replace. These questions search particulars on the precise classes of information that WhatsApp collects in India, the main points of permissions and consents required by the platform, and the character of profiling of Indian customers, if any, being executed by WhatsApp.
Information concerning the storage and transmission of the info of Indian customers and whether or not the info was being mirrored on every other servers outdoors India has additionally been sought by the ministry via the letter.