India tells WhatsApp to withdraw privacy policy, gives 7-day ultimatum to respond

WhatsApp dark mode
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The Indian government, which recently told a court in no uncertain terms that WhatsApp's new privacy policy contravenes its IT rules, has shot off a letter to the messaging platform company to take back its new privacy policy.

The letter, written by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), gave a 7-day ultimatum for WhatsApp to respond.

If the response from the Facebook-owned platform is not to the satisfaction of the government, it will take necessary steps in line with the laws of the land.

The letter has been sent to WhatsApp CEO Will Cathcart, who had earlier hoped to find solutions to address the Indian government’s traceability concerns on the platform without breaking end-to-end encryption.

WhatsApp's privacy policy is untenable under Indian law

One of the key objections of the government is the non-voluntary nature of the new policy. Users will have to accept it or else they will not be able to use WhatsApp, and MeitY says that this lack of choice is unfair to users. 

The MeitY letter also fears that the sharing of some data by WhatsApp with its parent company Facebook will weaken the information security of the users.

In the letter, MeitY recalled the Indian Supreme Court judgment on privacy delivered in 2017 and the proposed data protection law. In that light, WhatsApp coming out with a policy that allows for more data exchange between Facebook and WhatsApp is untenable, the letter said.

"It is not just problematic, but also irresponsible, for WhatsApp to leverage this position to impose unfair terms and conditions on Indian users, particularly those that discriminate against Indian users vis-à-vis users in Europe.”

“In fulfilment of its sovereign responsibility to protect the rights and interests of Indian citizens, the government of India will consider various options available to it under laws in India,” the letter said.

With there being more than 400 million WhatsApp users in India, there is pressure on the government to implement stricter data privacy rules and restrain the Facebook-owned app as was done while banning Chinese apps to protect the sovereignty of the country.

WhatsApp, for its part, had earlier said it was conforming to Indian IT laws and won't be deleting accounts of those users who have not accepted it, and would try to encourage them to get on board.

WhatsApp said there was no specific time limit for it to begin deleting accounts. It said each user would be dealt with it on case-to-case basis.

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Balakumar K
Senior Editor

Over three decades as a journalist covering current affairs, politics, sports and now technology. Former Editor of News Today, writer of humour columns across publications and a hardcore cricket and cinema enthusiast. He writes about technology trends and suggest movies and shows to watch on OTT platforms.