India the latest country asking WhatsApp to withdraw new privacy policy

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The divisive privacy policy that WhatsApp announced at the beginning of the year is in the news again this week as more countries probe the messaging platform regarding its data sharing practices with Facebook (the company that owns it). A number of countries have also asked WhatsApp to withdraw the policy altogether, which is currently scheduled to come into effect on 15th May.

The latest to do so is India, which has a recent history of dealing swiftly with apps that skirt any data sharing regulations.

The country’s IT Ministry contacted WhatsApp’s head, Will Cathcart, via email, raising concerns that the new privacy policy brings up, “grave concerns regarding the implications for the choice and autonomy of Indian citizens.

Adding that, “Therefore, you are called upon to withdraw the proposed changes.”

The ministry has also asked for clarity as to why this new privacy policy affects users in its own country, but seemingly leaves those in the EU exempt, along with wanting more information into the nature of data sharing between WhatsApp and Facebook or any other companies with which a similar relationship is in place.

“Such a differential treatment is prejudicial to the interests of Indian users and is viewed with serious concern by the government,” the email points out.

Whether the company will acquiesce to the requests remains to be seen, but given that India represents one of the biggest mobile markets on the planet, losing its users due to a ban, would be less than ideal. The country is also the largest territory for WhatsApp in terms of sheer user numbers, with an estimated 340 million according to figures from September of 2019.

That said, the ministry may look for WhatsApp to refine its policy, which when issued out to users at the beginning of the year, was very much an accept or leave directive. If there was greater choice involved with this new policy, it could potentially prove more acceptable.

“This ‘all-or-nothing’ approach takes away any meaningful choice from Indian users. This approach leverages the social significance of WhatsApp to force users into a bargain, which may infringe on their interests in relation to informational privacy and information security,” the email continues.

With WhatsApp clearly such a vital mobile tool in countries like India, should it be banned over this new privacy policy, it looks like both the company and its users will suffer as a result.

[Source – TechCrunch]
[Image – Photo by Srikanth D on Unsplash]

Robin-Leigh Chetty

Robin-Leigh Chetty

When he's not reviewing the latest smartphones, Robin-Leigh is writing about everything tech-related from IoT and smart cities, to 5G and cloud computing. He's also a keen photographer and dabbles in console games.

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