Despite govt’s warning will WhatsApp scrap its privacy policy?

Team Udayavani, May 20, 2021, 10:38 AM IST

Source: Unsplash

WhatsApp, instant messaging platform may face legal action in India by May 25 if it does not send a satisfactory reply to a new notice sent by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology asking the company to withdraw its latest privacy policy update.

IT ministry official said, “We have a sovereign responsibility to protect the rights and interests of Indian citizens. The government will consider various options available under the law.”

The IT ministry in a communication sent to WhatsApp on Tuesday, May 18, asking it to withdraw the new privacy policy said, “The changes to the privacy policy and the manner of introducing these changes including in FAQ (frequently asked questions) undermines the sacrosanct values of informational privacy, data security and user choice for Indian users and harms the rights and interests of Indian citizens.”

Officials asserted that mere deferral by WhatsApp of the last date to accept the updated terms beyond its deadline of May 15 did not absolve it from respecting informational privacy, data security, and user choice for Indian users.

WhatsApp in a statement said it continued to engage with the Indian government and its update did not impact the privacy of personal messages for anyone.

A spokesperson of WhatsApp said that no accounts were deleted on May 15 because of this update and no one in India lost the functionality of WhatsApp either. He added that they will follow up with reminders to people over the next several weeks.

It is important to note that this is the second communication by the IT ministry to WhatsApp asking to scrap its controversial privacy policy. In January, the ministry had written a letter to Will Cathcart, the global Chief Executive Officer of WhatsApp asking that the latest privacy and policy update be withdrawn.

In the January letter, the ministry said that WhatsApp’s accept-the-terms-or-leave-the-platform stance for users in India when the same did not apply to its European users.

The IT ministry had taken a similar stand before the Delhi HC in March, where through an affidavit it had said WhatsApp must be barred from rolling out its new privacy policy as it violated several existing IT rules.

On Monday, May 17, during a hearing, WhatsApp informed the High Court that it intended to go ahead with the roll-out of the new privacy policy as planned and the deadline stood as May 15.

WhatsApp also said that it would continue reminding users who had not yet accepted the terms to do so, and would eventually limit their usage of the platform by making certain services and features unavailable to them if they did not.

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