WhatsApp messaging app is displayed on an Apple iPhone on 14 May 2019 in San Anselmo, California. Facebook-owned messaging app WhatsApp announced a cyberspace breech, which makes users vulnerable to malicious spyware installations for iPhone and Android smartphones. WhatsApp is encouraging its 1.5 billion users to update the app as soon as possible.
Justin Sullivan | Getty Image News | Getty Images
In an email addressed to WhatsApp chief Will Cathart January 18, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said the proposed changes raised “serious concerns” over the implications for the choice and autonomy of Indian citizens, Reuters reported.
The update specifically relates to features that allow users to interact with businesses on WhatsApp.
The ministry reportedly said that it was concerned with the lack of likes that Indian users had opposed to the planned policy update of WhatsApp compared to those in Europe, where data protection regulations are more stringent. The Tech Ministry reportedly called it “discriminatory behavior” to “betray a lack of respect for the rights and interests of Indian citizens.”
“Therefore, you are asked to withdraw the proposed changes,” according to the news agency Reuters. The news wire said that the ministry has asked WhatsApp to answer 14 questions, including the type of data collected by the user and what kind of data users have received based on cross-border data flows.
CNBC could not independently verify the contents of the letters.
“We want to reinforce that this update does not expand our ability to share data with Facebook,” a WhatsApp spokesperson told CNBC in a statement.
“Our aim is to provide transparency and new options to connect with businesses so that they can serve and grow their customers. WhatsApp will always protect personal messages with end-to-end encryption so that WhatsApp or Facebook can’t see them , “The spokesman said.
What is the update about?
WhatsApp later said the update would not change the end-to-end encryption of personal conversations, meaning the app and Facebook would still be unable to view private messages. WhatsApp also said that it does not share people’s contacts with Facebook.
WhatsApp was about to start motivating users to accept those updated terms from February 8 to continue using the app. Since then, the Facebook-owned app said it would delay implementing its planned policy update until May 15 to give people more time to “review the policy at their own pace”.
India is a big market for WhatsApp
India is one of the largest markets of WhatsApp with over 400 million users. The company’s plans for the country extend beyond just messaging – since last year, users can send money via the app.
Abhishek Prakash, a geologist at the Toronto-based Center for Innovating the Future (CIF), said, “It has become a platform for many things. Small businesses and corporations use WhatsApp to share commerce, payments and payroll data.” Are. ” The consulting firm told CNBC by email. “It creates WhatsApp, an American service, a new kind of infrastructure for doing business in India.”
According to Prakash, WhatsApp stakes are high in India. He pointed out that there is a possibility that the messaging giants may change their policy “because of the strategic position India places in its strategy.”
When viewed through the lens of technical sovereignty and data, New Delhi seeks to establish its data boundaries after pushing for an open data market, where large technology companies share information with Indian companies. “It takes the new WhatsApp policy in the direction in which New Delhi is moving.”
On Tuesday, India’s Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had some choice words for Facebook, WhatsApp and other tech companies operating in the country.
“Be it WhatsApp, Facebook, be it any other digital platform, you are free to do business in India,” he said while speaking on a virtual event. “But do it in a way regardless of the rights of the Indians who operate it.”
“And, the sanctity of personal communication needs to be maintained,” he said. “I know there will be pressure to share data, but this is clearly unacceptable.”
– Of CNBC Arjun Kharpal Contributed to this report.