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WhatsApp clarifies key features will be restricted if ‘persistent reminders’ about privacy policy are ignored

Last week, WhatsApp said it was scrapping the May 15 deadline for its users to accept the controversial updates to its privacy policy. It said that Indian users will not lose functionality of the app even if they do not accept the updates by the deadline.

It now appears that it was only part of the story. 

In its statement issued last week, WhatsApp had said that “no accounts will be deleted on May 15 because of this update and no one in India will lose functionality of WhatsApp either. We will follow up with reminders to people over the next several weeks”. 

However, as they say, the devil is in the detail.

What the Facebook-owned messaging platform did not specifically clarify in its statement was what would happen if users ignored the reminders that will be sent to them over the next several weeks. 

In reality, over the coming weeks, WhatsApp will send “persistent reminders” to its users to accept its updated privacy policy. And if users do not accept the updates after these persistent reminders, the functionality of WhatsApp will be severely restricted. 

According to information on WhatsApp’s FAQ page, after a user ignores these “persistent reminders” about the privacy policy updates, they will initially not be able to access their chat list, and only answer incoming phone and video calls.

If a user chooses to ignore the persistent reminders even after the app’s functionality is partly limited, then after a few weeks they will not be able to receive incoming calls or notifications and WhatsApp will stop sending messages and calls to their phone. 

In essence, this means that while the deadline to accept WhatsApp’s privacy policy updates is gone and the platform will not deactivate accounts of users who do not accept the updates, to use the messaging juggernaut in any meaningful way, users have no other choice but to eventually accept the changes to WhatsApp’s privacy policy. 

Since this crucial information was not immediately clear from WhatsApp’s statement last week, Entrackr had reached out to WhatsApp to understand whether Indian users will also see their app’s functionality limited. 

A company spokesperson clarified to Entrackr that indeed, even for Indian users, the restrictions on WhatsApp’s functionality will apply. 

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. 

The updates were also mandatory for all users to accept without which they couldn’t use the service. 

However, despite multiple revisions to the deadline and WhatsApp’s assurances that the data of its users was safe, the proposed updates caused a privacy-related furore. 

A number of pleas were filed in several courts across the country asking for WhatsApp to retract the updates. India’s competition watchdog also launched an investigation into WhatsApp’s privacy policy after it felt the updates violated the competition law.

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