The WhatsApp messaging app will launch on an Apple iPhone in San Anselmo, California on May 14, 2019. WhatsApp, Facebook’s messaging app, announced a cybersecurity breach that leaves users vulnerable to the installation of malicious spyware on iPhone and Android smartphones. WhatsApp encourages its 1.5 billion users to update the app as soon as possible.
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images News | Getty Images
In an email addressed to WhatsApp chief Will Cathcart dated On Jan. 18, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said the proposed changes raised “grave concern” about the implications for choice and autonomy of Indian citizens, Reuters reported.
The update specifically addresses features that allow users to interact with businesses on WhatsApp.
The ministry said it was reportedly concerned about the lack of choice Indian users had to opt out of WhatsApp’s planned policy update compared to those in Europe, where data protection rules are stricter. The Ministry of Technology reportedly called it “discriminatory treatment” that “betrays a lack of respect for the rights and interests of Indian citizens.”
“Therefore, you are requested to withdraw the proposed changes,” the ministry wrote, according to Reuters. The news report added that the ministry asked WhatsApp to answer 14 questions, including the type of user data it collected, if it profiled users based on their usage habits and on cross-border data flows.
The Washington City Times could not independently verify the content of the letters.
A WhatsApp spokesperson told The Washington City Times in a statement, “We would like to emphasize that this update does not increase our ability to share data with Facebook.”
“Our goal is to provide transparency and new available options to engage with businesses so they can serve their customers and grow. WhatsApp will always protect personal messages with end-to-end encryption, so WhatsApp and Facebook don’t can see, “said the spokesman. said.
What is the update about?
WhatsApp later said the update will not change the end-to-end encryption of personal conversations, meaning the app and Facebook will still not be able to view private messages. WhatsApp also said it does not share people’s contacts with Facebook.
WhatsApp would start asking users to accept those updated terms and conditions in order to continue using the app on February 8. Since then, the Facebook app said it would delay enforcement of the planned policy update until May 15, to give people more time to “review the policy at their own pace.”
India is a huge market for WhatsApp
India is one of the largest markets for WhatsApp with more than 400 million users. The company’s plans for the country go beyond just sending messages – starting last year, users can send money through the app.
“It has become a platform for many things. Small businesses and businesses are using WhatsApp to trade, pay and share salary data,” said Abishur Prakash, a geopolitical specialist at the Center for Innovating the Future (CIF), a Toronto-based established consulting firm, told The Washington City Times by email. “This makes WhatsApp, an American service, a new kind of infrastructure for doing business in India.”
The stakes for WhatsApp in India are very high, according to Prakash. He explained that there is a possibility that the messaging giant could change its policy “because of India’s strategic position in its strategy.”
Seen through the lens of technical sovereignty and data, New Delhi is looking to establish its own data frontiers after pushing for an open data market where major technology companies share information with Indian companies, Prakash said. “This makes the new WhatsApp policy contrary to the direction New Delhi is heading.”
On Tuesday, Indian Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had a few choice words for Facebook, WhatsApp and other technology companies operating in the country.
“Whether it’s WhatsApp, or Facebook, or any other digital platform, you are free to do business in India,” he said at a virtual event. “But do it in a way that doesn’t compromise the rights of the Indians who operate there.”
“And the sanctity of personal communication must be maintained,” he added. “I know there will be pressure to share (data), but this is downright unacceptable.”
– CNBCs Arjun Kharpal contributed to this report.