Whatsapp, Google yet to fully comply with India’s data localisation norms despite repeated inquiries from the government

Whatsapp, Google yet to fully comply with India’s data localisation norms despite repeated inquiries from the government

  • Letters have been issued to Google and Whatsapp by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) to clarify their plans to store payments data locally.
  • The government is concerned is that while these companies may be storing Indian users’ data locally, it’s being mirrored abroad.
  • India’s directive on data localisation requires data of local users be stored ‘exclusively’ in the country.
The deadline imposed by India’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of India, to store all of Indian users’ data exclusively within the country was October 15, but technology giants like Google and Whatsapp are yet to fully comply with the directive.

Officials told the Economic Times that the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) has sent letters to both companies.

NPCI, the organisation responsible for all retail payments in the country, is asking Google and Whatsapp to clarify their plans on how they’re storing the data of Indian users from their respective payments platforms within India.

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The agency’s concern is that while these companies have started storing their data in India, they’re also keeping copies of the data abroad, which violates the rule that data should be ‘exclusively’ stored within the country’s borders.

The need for a level playing field

Local players in the Indian payments market like Paytm say that the move to localise Indian data will benefit startups as well as allay the privacy concerns of citizens through a strong consumer data protection framework.

PhonePe, another Indian payments company, has alleged that global firms have been trying to evade taxes by keeping their data servers outside India. It claims the move is a requisite for the nation’s ‘safety and security’ as well as for the creation of ‘national wealth’.

Whatsapp’s hurdles

While Whatsapp was the first global company to announce that it would comply with India’s payments data localisation demand, it has faced its fair share of hurdles. Other companies like MasterCard, Visa, PayPal, Amazon, Google and Facebook were still seeking extensions at the time of the imposed deadline.

Whatsapp’s plans to roll out its own payments platform have faced obstacles after its parent company, Facebook, got embroiled in the Cambridge Analytica’s data breach debacle and the spread of fake news was thought be propagated through its messaging app.

The company is yet to fully roll out their payments service, but nearly one million people are already testing Whatsapp Payments in India, according to the company.

The recent appointment of Abhijit Bose as the country head, whose previous role was co-founder of Ezetap — a digital payments product for rural households where smartphones could be turned in to point-of-sale devices — is meant to help with the platform’s full roll out.

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