Indian government threatens legal action against WhatsApp’s new privacy policy – WhatsApp refuses to back down

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Indian government threatens legal action against WhatsApp’s new privacy policy – WhatsApp refuses to back down
Representaional image.Unsplash
  • The Indian government has reportedly accused WhatsApp of being ‘unfair’ towards Indian users.
  • The government has asserted that WhatsApp is discriminating between Indian and European users with its new privacy policy.
  • Apart from threatening legal action, the government made strong observations.
  • WhatsApp, however, seems to be refusing to back down, stating that a ‘majority’ of its users have already accepted the new privacy policy.
The Indian government has put WhatsApp on notice as the messaging giant is yet to back down from its position. Reports suggest that WhatsApp may face legal action if it does not give a “satisfactory” response to a notice sent by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY).

A report by PTI, quoting government sources, says that the ministry has written to WhatsApp on May 18, asking the Facebook-owned company to respond within 7 days.

More than just a threat of legal action

It’s not just the threat of legal action that should worry WhatsApp – the government has taken a strong position with regards to contents of the privacy policy.
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According to the report, the government has termed WhatsApp’s decision to enforce its privacy policy as “irresponsible”, calling the terms and conditions as “unfair”. WhatsApp is used by 530 million users in India, according to government data.

In the letter, the ministry has drawn the attention of WhatsApp to how its new privacy policy is a violation of several provisions of the existing Indian laws and rules.

IT ministry takes umbrage to discrimination against Indian users

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The ministry has also taken offence to WhatsApp policy being “discriminatory” against Indian users, when compared to those in Europe.

More specifically, WhatsApp users in Europe do not have to accept the new privacy policy. They can opt out of the changes without the fear of their WhatsApp account being deleted – a scenario that is not applicable for Indian users.

European users have the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to thank for it. With the Indian Data Protection law still under works, the Indian government might lack the teeth to force WhatsApp to withdraw its new terms and conditions.

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“The sole reason this Privacy Policy update is not enforced in the EU is because they have very strict and defined laws which expressly prohibit the same”, said Kazim Rizvi, Director at The Dialogue, a public policy think-tank.

“It is crucial the Indian Data Protection law ensures maximum privacy protection for the users while also aligning with the security and economic realities of India,” he further added.

WhatsApp isn’t backing down, for now

Despite the threat of legal action and some strong observations by the ministry, WhatsApp seems undeterred. Apart from this, the company has also said that a majority of its users have already accepted the new privacy policy, but the company refused to specify the exact number.
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In a statement to Business Insider, the company said:

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. We will follow up with reminders to people over the next several weeks.

WhatsApp

With inputs from PTI.

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