WhatsApp’s troubles over its controversial policy update are now facing the risk of legal action in India, the Facebook-owned instant messaging platform’s largest market. The policy – which was set to go into effect on May 15 and allows sharing of identifiable user data with Facebook – has again forced India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) into action. The ministry, in a letter sent to WhatsApp, has asked the company to withdraw the proposed policy change and furnish a response to justify its stance.
Meity to Whatsapp –
Deferral of policy does not absolve WhatsApp from respecting privacy, data security, user choice.
Treatment of Indian users is discriminatory vis-à-vis users in Europe.
— Chandra R. Srikanth (@chandrarsrikant) May 19, 2021
MeitY has asked WhatsApp (via IndianExpress) to come up with a satisfactory response within a week, and failing to do so will force the ministry to take legal recourse. The ministry argues that WhatsApp’s move undermines the concepts of information privacy and data security for its Indian user base which stands at over 400 million. The letter also asks why the policy update is being enforced on users in India, while those in Europe are exempt from it.
What WhatsApp has to say?
WhatsApp, on the other hand, continues to assert that the policy update won’t affect the privacy of communication between users. The company, however, appears to be adamant about enforcing it and will continue to show users in-app prompts in order to educate them about what is changing and how it affects them.
“We continue to engage with the government and we reaffirm what we said before that this update does not impact the privacy of personal messages for anyone. Our goal is to provide information about new options we are building that people will have, to message a business on WhatsApp, in the future. While the majority of users who have received the new terms of service have accepted them, we appreciate some people haven’t had the chance to do so yet. No accounts were deleted on May 15 because of this update and no one in India lost functionality of WhatsApp either.”
WhatsApp previously said that users who don’t accept the new terms will lose out on some key functionalities, but the company now claims that it hasn’t happened yet, not to users in India at least. This is the second time that India’s MeitY has issued a communication regarding the controversial change, asking the company to withdraw it.