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Wednesday, May 31, 2023

WhatsApp replies to Bharat’s notice, says privacy ‘highest priority’

WhatsApp on Monday said it has sent a reply to the notice by Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) after the ministry directed the Facebook-owned platform to withdraw its controversial user privacy policy.

In its fresh notice to the company, the MeitY told WhatsApp to respond to its concerns by May 25.

A WhatsApp spokesperson said in a statement that the company has responded to the Government of Bharat’s letter and assured them that the privacy of users “remains our highest priority”.

“As a reminder, the recent update does not change the privacy of people’s personal messages. Its purpose is to provide additional information about how people can interact with businesses if they choose to do so,” the spokesperson said.

Noting that many Bharatiya users depend on WhatsApp for communicating on a daily basis, the ministry had said in the notice that it is irresponsible for WhatsApp to leverage its position in the Bharatiya market to impose unfair terms and conditions.

As per the ministry, the changes to WhatsApp privacy policy and the manner of introducing the changes undermines the sacrosanct values of informational privacy, data security and user choice and harms the rights and interests of Bharatiya citizens.

The WhatsApp spokesperson said that the company “will not limit the functionality of how WhatsApp works in the coming weeks.

“Instead, we will continue to remind users from time to time about the update as well as when people choose to use relevant optional features, like communicating with a business that is receiving support from Facebook,” the spokesperson added.

“We will maintain this approach until at least the forthcoming PDP (personal data protection) law comes into effect”.

The MeitY communication had noted that WhatsApp’s new privacy policy is a violation of several provisions of the existing Indian laws and rules.

WhatsApp has rolled out its privacy policy globally including in Bharat, where it has more than 400 million users. The users will not immediately lose their accounts or face curtailed functionalities, but they will have to eventually go through limited functions if they fail to accept the new norms in the due course of time.

After persistent reminders, the users will encounter limited functionality on WhatsApp until they accept the updates.

(The story has been published via a syndicated feed with minor edits to conform to HinduPost style-guide.)

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