Withdraw “Discriminatory” Policy For Indian Users: Government To WhatsApp

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The government has asked WhatsApp to withdraw any change in the messaging app’s privacy policy for users in India, people with direct knowledge of the matter have said. The centre has written to the Facebook-owned app’s global CEO Will Cathcart detailing concerns over information security of users, they said. India is WhatsApp’s biggest market.

“…The new policy of WhatsApp proposes to share the metadata of users’ chat with business accounts with other Facebook companies. It would create a honeypot of information about users with Facebook group which can create security risks and vulnerabilities for users,” people familiar with the matter said, referring to what the Electronics and Information Technology Ministry communicated to WhatsApp.

“Ministry further objects to the all-or-nothing approach of WhatsApp that forces users to accept the new service terms and privacy policies, without giving an option to the users to opt-out of this proposed change of integrating user data with other Facebook companies,” the people said.

WhatsApp on Friday last postponed its data-sharing policy change after users concerned about privacy fled the messaging service and flocked to rivals Telegram and Signal. The smartphone app, a huge hit across the world, cancelled its February 8 deadline for accepting the update to its terms concerning sharing data with Facebook, saying it would use the pause to clear up misinformation around privacy and security.

“Ministry has also objected to the differential privacy policies for European Union and India. Given that India has the largest user base for WhatsApp in the world, this discriminatory treatment to Indian users shows lack of respect for interests of Indian citizens by WhatsApp. In this context, government reminds WhatsApp that it has a sovereign right to protect the interests of Indian citizens and it shall not compromise on that at any cost,” people with knowledge of the matter said.