India asks WhatsApp to withdraw privacy policy update

Platform News: Opening the WhatsApp app on a smartphone

India’s tech ministry has asked WhatsApp to withdraw changes to its privacy policy that the popular Facebook-owned messenger declared this month, saying the new provisions take away option from Indian users.

The demand makes a new headache for WhatsApp and its own US parent Facebook, that have placed big bets on the South Asian nation to expand their obligations and other businesses.

“The proposed changes raise grave concerns regarding the implications for the choice and autonomy of Indian citizens,” the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology composed in an email to WhatsApp manager Will Cathcart dated January the 18th.

Social media titan Facebook invested $5.7 billion last year at the electronic unit of Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries using a huge portion of the aimed at drawing in tens of millions of classic shop owners to use electronic payments via WhatsApp.

With 400 million consumers from India, WhatsApp has big plans for India’s growing digital payments space, including promoting health insurance through partners.

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Those aspirations could take a hit when Indians switch to equal messengers like Signal and Telegram, downloads of that have jumped after WhatsApp stated on January the 4th it might discuss restricted user information using Facebook and its group firms.

It’s of “great concern” that Indian customers have yet to be given the choice to opt out of the data sharing with Facebook companies and are being given less option compared to this app’s European consumers, the tech ministry letter said.

“This differential and discriminatory treatment of Indian and European users is attracting serious criticism and betrays a lack of respect for the rights and interest of Indian citizens who form a substantial portion of WhatsApp’s user base,” it said.

The ministry asked WhatsApp to respond to 14 questions including on the categories of user information it collected, whether it profiled clients based on usage and cross-border data flows.

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WhatsApp didn’t respond to a request for comment but has said the upgrade to its privacy policy didn’t affect the privacy of users’ messages together with friends, loved ones and in classes.

The business said last week it would delay the new policy launch to May from February, after facing criticism from users in India and elsewhere to the new provisions.

WhatsApp has launched a media advertising campaign in India to calm anxious users. The upgrade to the privacy policy has also resulted in two legal petitions in Indian courts.

The team at Platform Executive hope you have enjoyed this news article. Translation from English to other languages via Google Cloud Translation. Initial reporting via our official content partners at Thomson Reuters. Reporting by Sankalp Phartiyal. Editing by Louise Heavens and Edmund Blair.

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