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‘Deferring deadline does not absolve WhatsApp’: Modi govt again gives stern warning over privacy policy

Earlier, WhatsApp had announced that its new controversial privacy policy has been deferred and it wont come into effect on May 15th.

The Union Government has written to social-media giant WhatsApp asking them to withdraw its new Privacy Policy in the aftermath of sweeping policy changes proposed by the messenger app. In a letter to WhatsApp, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has expressed its reservations against its urgency to push for privacy policy and its implications on the users in India.

Earlier, WhatsApp had announced that its new controversial privacy policy has been deferred and it wont come into effect on May 15th. However, the govt of India said that deferring the same does not absolve WhatsApp from respecting values of informational privacy, data security and user choice for Indian users.

In a communication sent to WhatsApp yesterday (18 May 2021), the Ministry has once again told WhatsApp to withdraw its Privacy Policy 2021 as the changes to the Privacy Policy, and the manner of introducing these changes including in FAQ undermines the sacrosanct values of informational privacy, data security and user choice of Indian users and harms the rights and interests of Indian citizens.

The Ministry has also taken the same stand in the Delhi High Court, where this matter is sub-judice. Taking up the issue of discriminatory treatment to Indian users vis-a-vis users in Europe, the Ministry has further stated that, “As you are doubtlessly aware, many Indian citizens depend on WhatsApp to communicate in everyday life. 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.”

In its communication, the center has drawn attention to WhatsApp about how its new Privacy Policy is a violation of several provisions of the existing Indian laws and rules. 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. Government has given seven days time to WhatsApp to respond to his notice and if no satisfactory response is received, necessary steps in consonance with law will be taken.

Earlier, WhatsApp had said that as part of its new privacy policy it would share user data with other Facebook companies. This led its users to believe that WhatsApp would now be able to peek into the personal messages of its users and it would share the personal data of users with Facebook.

Facebook-owned Whatsapp had given February 8th as the date after which the app would stop working on devices and accounts would be suspended if the new policy was not accepted. As a result, many people started moving to other apps like Signal and Telegram looking for a substitute. Following the backlash, the social media giant had deferred its plan of implementation of Privacy Policy to May 15.

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