Indian Government Asks WhatsApp to Backtrack on Its New Privacy Policy

BY Sanuj Bhatia

Published 19 May 2021

WhatsApp Privacy Policy Explained

Indian Government’s Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) has asked WhatsApp to backtrack its new privacy policy, according to a new notice dated May 18.

WhatsApp’s new privacy policy has been under scrutiny ever since its announcement back in January. The company had to issue various clarifications and FAQs regarding its privacy policy, saying that private chats are still encrypted.

Even though group and private chats are encrypted, and while WhatsApp says it can’t see the messages you send, the Indian government has asked WhatsApp to backtrack its privacy policy and sought a response within seven days. MeitY has told Facebook, the company that owns WhatsApp, that a failure of a satisfactory response may result in steps “in consonance with the law.”

In case you’re still unaware, WhatsApp’s new privacy policy is applicable only in India. This special focus on the Indian market, which is (not so) coincidentally WhatsApp’s largest active market, has raised some eyebrows. Indian IT Ministry has finally given hay to the situation and has asked WhatsApp to re-do its policy.

A source close to the matter has said that the Indian government, in its notice, has said that the firm “undermines the sacrosanct values of informational privacy, data security, and user choice for Indian users and harms the rights and interests of Indian citizens.”

“In fulfilment of its sovereign responsibility to protect the rights and interests of Indian citizens, the Government of India will consider various options available to it under laws in India. The government has given seven days’ time to WhatsApp to respond to this notice and if no satisfactory response is received, necessary steps in consonance with law will be taken,” the source said.

Read: What’s the Issue With WhatsApp’s New Privacy Policy?

The government has also said that WhatsApp treats its users in India and Europe differently. The government has said that the users would have been given a different treatment if they belonged to Europe (since WhatsApp has to comply with Europe’s GDPR guidelines).

“It is not just problematic, but also irresponsible, for WhatsApp to leverage this position to impose unfair terms and conditions on Indian users, particularly those that discriminate against Indian users vis-à-vis users in Europe.”

WhatsApp recently issued a statement saying it won’t delete your account if you fail to accept its new privacy policy. But, if you don’t accept the new terms, WhatsApp will constantly remind you about accepting it, and in between, make it harder for you to use the messaging service. If you fail to comply for an ‘extended period,’ WhatsApp won’t even let you send messages.

Have you accepted WhatsApp’s new privacy policy yet? What are your thoughts on the new terms? Let us know in the comments section below!