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Asia

India wants court to stop WhatsApp's new privacy policy

In a setback to the Facebook-owned messaging app WhatsApp, India's Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) has said in an affidavit that WhatsApp's new policy violates the Information Technology Rules, 2011.

The affidavit was submitted by the government to the Delhi High Court, asking it to restrain WhatsApp from implementing it.

It said that the new policy and terms of use violate the IT Rules on five accounts, including collecting and sharing sensitive personal information with its parent company Facebook and other third parties.

Trouble ahead: WhatsApp's new privacy policy has run into a roadblock in India. (Source: Dimitri Karastelev on Unsplash)
Trouble ahead: WhatsApp's new privacy policy has run into a roadblock in India. (Source: Dimitri Karastelev on Unsplash)

"WhatsApp fails to specify types of personal data being collected, fails to notify user details of the collection of sensitive personal information; provide an option to review or amend information; provide an option to withdraw consent retrospectively and guarantee further non-disclosure by third parties," says the affidavit.

"Crucially, there is no distinction between personal data or sensitive personal data which is being collected," it added.

Big numbers

With more than 400 million users, India is one of the biggest markets for WhatsApp. It introduced a privacy policy in January this year which allows it to share user data with Facebook and its group companies.

The Indian government has introduced the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019. Once enacted, the law is envisioned to provide a well-defined policy to protect the privacy rights of Indian citizens.

The affidavit says that the new privacy policy issued by WhatsApp must comply with the requirements specified in the Act and its rules.

"As we said in January when this matter was first raised, we wish to reinforce that this update does not expand our ability to share data with Facebook," says WhatsApp media statement post-MEITY submitted its affidavit.


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"WhatsApp will always protect personal messages with end-to-end encryption so neither WhatsApp nor Facebook can see them. We are working to address misinformation and remain available to answer any questions."

The High Court had issued a notice to central government and WhatsApp last month in response to a petition challenging WhatsApp's new privacy rules and terms of service.

The change in privacy policy earlier this year led to a number of users exiting the messaging platform in favor of its rivals, Telegram and Signal. This led to the company postponing implementation from February to May following protests.

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Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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