Indian Government’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) took a welcoming step in privacy protection. The government wrote to WhatsApp’s Global CEO Will Cathcart to withdraw the latest privacy and policy update on the instant messaging platform.
This approach has the potential to infringe on core values of data privacy, user choice and autonomy of Indian users. Given the huge user base of WhatsApp and Facebook in India, the consolidation of this sensitive information also exposes a very large segment of Indian citizens to greater information security risk and vulnerabilities creating a potential honeypot of information, the IT ministry said in the letter to WhatsApp CEO.
About the recent policy update, MeitY further wrote “In this context, the proposed changes raise grave concerns regarding the implications for the choice and autonomy of Indian citizens. Therefore, you are called upon to withdraw the proposed changes. Further, you are urged to reconsider your approach to respect the informational privacy, freedom of choice and data security of Indian citizens.”
The ministry has asked WhatsApp to withdraw the proposed changes and reconsider its approach to information privacy, freedom of choice and data security. The letter also said, “any unilateral changes to the WhatsApp Terms of Service and Privacy would not be fair and acceptable.”
WhatsApp sent an in-app notification recently asking its millions of users worldwide to accept the updated policy terms by February 8 or lose access to their accounts. After this, a lot of users, online-offline media and privacy activists protests via a different medium. After facing the huge criticism, WhatsApp had on January 15 announced that it was delaying the implementation of the changes to May 15.
It’s really good to see that the government is serious about its citizen’s data privacy and making rogue companies like Facebook answerable for its operations and activities. The Indian government made it very clear in its official letter that the company has to be respectful about the citizen’s privacy if they are willing to do the businesses here in India.
The government also wants details on the followings from WhatsApp CEO:
- Whether WhatsApp conducts profiling of Indian users on the basis or their usage and the nature of profiling;
- Whether the application captures information about other apps running on the mobile phone of the user; and
- The server on which the data of Indian users is transmitted and hosted and whether the data hosted on these servers are encrypted.