After govt notice, WhatsApp says updated policy does not undermine users’ privacy

The popular messaging platform WhatsApp has responded to a letter from India’s information technology ministry directing the platform to withdraw its controversial privacy policy, saying that its revised policy does not impact the privacy of personal messages.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, a WhatsApp spokesperson said that it will “continue to engage with the government” and “this update does not impact the privacy of personal messages for anyone”.

On May 18, the IT Ministry had sent a communication to the Facebook-owned company directing it to withdraw its updated privacy policy, a government source told Entrackr on the condition of anonymity. 

The ministry has given the company seven days to respond to its communication, and in case its response is not found satisfactory, the government will consider various options available to it under Indian laws, the source said. 

In the communication, the ministry said that it was unfair on WhatsApp’s part to use its position and impose the new policy on its users, according to the source.

CNBC-TV18 had first reported on the ministry’s communication to the messaging juggernaut. 

“We have made the same argument in the Delhi High Court and the latest communication reiterates our stance,” the source said. The government has told the Delhi High Court that WhatsApp’s latest privacy policy does not conform to India’s new IT Rules.

The government source also told Entrackr that in its communication, the ministry raised concerns over WhatsApp’s alleged discriminatory treatment of Indian users compared to its European users.

To be sure, Indian users do not have the option to opt-out of WhatsApp’s latest privacy policy updates, an option available to its users in the European Union.

However, in the latest statement issued by WhatsApp, there is no mention of whether it will follow the government’s directive. In fact, the statement is just a reiteration of its previous stand as reported earlier. 

Earlier this month, WhatsApp issued a statement saying that it will not deactivate the account of users who do not accept its updated privacy policy by May 15 and that the app’s functionality will remain unaffected for Indian users. 

However, as Entrackr pointed out, the company’s statement did not reveal the entire situation. In reality, over the coming weeks, WhatsApp will start sending “persistent reminders” to users who are yet to accept the privacy policy. 

If these users ignore the reminders for a certain unspecified amount of time, WhatsApp’s functionality will be severely limited.

The latest WhatsApp statement does not mention this too, and it is only clarified on WhatsApp’s FAQ page

Initially announced in January 2021, the company had faced severe backlash over its privacy policy and terms of service changes as people believed it allowed for increased data sharing between the messaging service and other products of its parent – the Facebook group. 

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