Yuva - India

Indian Government and WhatsApp at Loggerheads

Facebook owned messaging app ‘WhatsApp’ is making changes to its privacy policy and is not letting users have access to some of its features if they do not accept the new policy.

Facebook-owned Privacy Policy 2021, which it simply calls an ‘update’. The new policy involves WhatsApp handling the users’ data and partnering with the larger platform of Facebook, and it allows integration across different platforms like Instagram and Facebook Messenger. If one doesn’t ‘accept’ the new policy, the messaging app will send out regular reminders asking the user to do the same. And if you still do not accept the update, the app will start cutting down your access to its various features.

First, the user will not be able to see the chat list and your access to it will be restricted, even though it’s a messaging app! If one has the notifications for the app-enabled, then having a gander at the messages or replying to them will be possible from there itself. And for the time being, you’ll be able to receive and answer WhatsApp videos and voice calls.

On the other hand, the Indian Government continues to oppose the new policy and in a communication sent to WhatsApp, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has asked the platform to withdraw its Privacy Policy 2021. The IT Ministry views the new policy and the way of its introduction as something which aims at breaching the values of informational privacy, data security, and user choice for Indian users and harms the rights and interests of the Indian citizens.

The new privacy policy, which was implemented on May 15, has also been challenged in Court. The Delhi High Court Bench comprising Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh has sought a response from the Central Government, WhatsApp, and the parent- company Facebook, over a plea challenging the new policy. The petition says that it violates the users’ right to privacy under the Indian Constitution.

As a response, the Government has told the Delhi High Court that WhatsApp’s new privacy policy, in its view, is a violation of the Indian Information Technology (IT) laws and norms. On the other hand, WhatsApp has told the Court that its new policy has been introduced on May 15th but the platform will not delete the accounts of the users who do not accept it and will persuade them to accept the same.

The WhatsApp Privacy Policy 2021 had created much of a stir among its users during the early year, but scathing comments from people, the government, and users’ mounting doubts and insecurities made WhatsApp push its introduction further away in time. Too much of its users’ shock, it is quite evident that the new policy will lead to the platform collecting your data and sharing it across major Facebook services and businesses. This is an obvious breach of privacy. Though, as per WhatsApp, there’s nothing to worry about with the ‘update’ and it is just misinformation that is triggering fear in the minds of millions of its users.

In the meantime, as a negative consequence of its questionable policies, WhatsApp is facing the heat with its users now looking out for an alternative messaging app that doesn’t use their data to such perilous levels. Between the points, the new policy was first about to come in place, and on May 15th, when it now has been introduced, Telegram and Signal have witnessed a whopping 1,200% growth. Telegram’s downloads increased 98% to more than 161 million, while Signal’s first-time downloads hiked 1,192% to 64.6 million between January to April 2021.

The IT ministry has issued a fresh notice to WhatsApp and has given seven days to the platform to respond. And if no response is received, the requisite legal action will be taken. This time, the government is angry, serious, and concerned. And while the messaging platform is on the mat for long, it just isn’t ready to budge and says it will not mend its ways in India, even though the European Union has not accepted the new policy. The Facebook-owned app continues to assure the users that it cannot gain access to their messages; and that it aims to provide information about new options that people will have, to message a business on WhatsApp in the future.

 

Sonakshi Datta

Intern, Goa Chronicle

DISCLAIMER: This article reflects author’s view point. Goa Chronicle may or may not subscribe to views of the author

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