WhatsApp won't make its controversial privacy policy mandatory until the introduction of India’s Data Protection Law

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WhatsApp won't make its controversial privacy policy mandatory until the introduction of India’s Data Protection Law
Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash
  • WhatsApp has put its updated privacy policy on hold in India.
  • The Facebook-owned company says it will wait until the Data Protection Law for India is introduced.
  • Court has adjourned the hearing to July 30th.
Update (4:00 PM IST): WhatsApp has reached out to Business Insider India to confirm that the new policy is not being put on hold.

WhatsApp has agreed not to mandate its new privacy policy. The Delhi High Court today was hearing a plea from WhatsApp and its parent company Facebook against a single judge order refusing to put the order from the Competition Commission of India (CCI) for scrutiny against its privacy policy.

Harish Salve, representing WhatsApp in the case, said that the company will not limit functionality for some time, and will maintain the same approach until the Data Protection Bill comes into force and the updated policy will remain on hold till then.

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WhatsApp told Business Insider India, "we will not limit the functionality of how WhatsApp works in the coming weeks. Instead, we will continue to remind users from time to time about the update as well as when people choose to use relevant optional features, like communicating with a business that is receiving support from Facebook." This means that WhatsApp will not be restricting features for users who do not comply with the new policy.

Salve said that the challenge to the privacy policy and challenge to the CCI order for the probe are different.

India’s MeiTy (Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology) said that WhatsApp's Privacy Policy doesn’t comply with the IT Act 2011 that covers ‘reasonable security practices and procedures and sensitive personal data or information’.

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WhatsApp considers the roll-out of its privacy policy open-ended as there's no specific date for the announcement of the much talked about Data Protection Bill. Salve said the company believes there are chances that the bill might allow the company to go ahead with the updated policy.

Salve said that WhatsApp has been telling CCI that the Indian government is dealing with the matter and it has already issued a directive to the US-based company. However, the CCI has taken the competition angle to look at the policy update.

Salve reiterated the facts on data collection saying WhatsApp can't see messages as they're end-to-end encrypted and only the external shell of data like the phone number and the name of the users are known, and that's what they're opposing. He further said that this data is also collected while buying a mobile connection in India.
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However, the High Court kept its stance around allegations that claim the collected data is given to third parties without user consent. The other point made by the court was around having a "different yardstick" for India as the company has different policies for the European market.

Salve has asked for 2-3 weeks to reply to CCI's questions and the hearing has been adjourned to July 30th.

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