The ministry of electronics & information technology (MeitY), in an affidavit, said WhatsApp’s new policy is in breach of Information Technology Rules, 2011. Any “body corporate” such as WhatsApp must comply with the requirements specified in the Act, it said.
“It fails to specify types of personal data being collected; fails to notify user details of 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,” said the affidavit, which ET has reviewed.
Petition in Delhi HC
India is WhatsApp’s biggest market with more than 400 million users, a fifth of 2 billion worldwide.
In a petition to the Delhi High Court in February, Delhi University professor Seema Singh had asked it to direct the government to order WhatsApp to withdraw the controversial privacy update or allow users to opt out of the new rules. The rules violate the right to privacy, the petition said. The court had asked the government to respond by March 19. The next date of hearing is April 20.
A WhatsApp spokesperson said, “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. 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.”
WhatsApp had in January unveiled a privacy update that would allow it to share commercial user data with parent Facebook and group companies. It’s part of the social media giant’s plan to build a messaging commerce powerhouse. The update also meant that WhatsApp would share extensive user metadata with its parent that can be used for cybersecurity as well as targeted advertising and personalised content on Facebook.
It deferred implementation from February to May after users began shifting to rival messaging apps globally.
The Facebook-owned messaging platform has maintained that it is building new ways to chat or shop with a business on the app that are entirely optional. Personal messages will remain endto-end encrypted, so WhatsApp can’t read or listen to them. WhatsApp said it doesn’t keep a log on who everyone is messaging or calling, and it does not share users’ contacts with Facebook.