WhatsApp's policies under government scrutiny following global outrage

Last updated on Jan 16, 2021, 12:40 am
WhatsApp's policies under government scrutiny following global outrage

The Terms of Service (ToS) and privacy policy of Facebook-owned messaging service WhatsApp were recently updated. And, the revised documentation is now being scrutinized by the IT Ministry of the Government of India. The update has made users apprehensive of WhatsApp sharing their personal information with Facebook. Top business leaders in the country have voiced concerns over the changes to the ToS. Here's more.

Domino effect

Changes to ToS clarified by WhatsApp; damage already done

Earlier this week, WhatsApp tweeted an infographic clarifying these changes. The company claimed the revisions only affect interactions with business accounts on the platform. However, scores of users have already migrated to alternatives such as Signal and Telegram. Meanwhile, eminent figures like Elon Musk, Anand Mahindra, Vijay Shekhar Sharma (Founder, Paytm), and Sameer Nigam (CEO, PhonePe) have been vocal about moving to other platforms.

Corporate reaction

Eminent Indians express concerns; EU GDPR effectively reins in Facebook

PhonePe CEO Nigam said he had moved more than a thousand PhonePe users to Signal, recreated all workgroups, and moved family groups as well. Paytm founder Sharma decried the double standards employed by WhatsApp when dealing with user data for the European Union (EU) vis-a-vis India. The European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) prevents user data from misuse by entities such as Facebook.

Twitter Post

Here's what Sharma posted on Twitter

Economies of scale

Lot to lose: India one of WhatsApp's largest markets

WhatsApp has more than 400 million users in India. It has a lot to lose for breaching user trust or if the IT Ministry finds the new policy in violation of local laws. The messaging service gave users until February 8 to consent to the updated ToS in order to continue using the platform. WhatsApp has not altered the deadline despite tweeting a clarification.

For the people

Government intervention would be in best interest of users

The Indian Government's decision to look into the WhatsApp policy change, and express intent to safeguard the interests of its citizens, is a positive example of government scrutiny. A single powerful tech entity with unrestricted access to such a large swathe of private conversations isn't without risk. This is especially true after the parent company Facebook has already been accused of influencing election outcomes.

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