New Whatsapp Policy & Privacy
- 18 Jan 2021
- 7 min read
Recently, WhatsApp has updated its policy, which states that it may share information of any of its users with its family of companies (Facebook). This new update has caused a lot of concern over the privacy of the people that use this application.
As the Supreme court in K. Puttaswamy’s judgment held that the right to privacy is a fundamental right, the Whatsapp new policy is yet another reason why India needs data protection law.
Issues Related to New Whatsapp Policy
- Whatsapp As the Owner of Data: The information that WhatsApp automatically collects and will be sharing with Facebook includes the mobile phone number, user activity, and other basic information of the WhatsApp account.
- The policy essentially takes away the choice users had until now to not share their data with other Facebook-owned and third-party apps.
- The basic definition of intermediaries is that they do not own content and are mere platforms where third-party entities place content.
- This particular status prevents them from liability in case anything unlawful is noticed on their platforms.
- In such instances, the government directs the intermediary concerned to remove the unlawful content within a specified period.
- If Whatsapp automatically shares the data, it can not be considered as an intermediary.
- In such a scenario it may lose the immunity it has with regard to any objectionable content found on its platform at any given point in time.
- Against the Recommendations of the Srikrishna Committee Report: The new Whatsapp policy contradicts the recommendations of the Srikrishna Committee report, which forms the basis of the Data Protection Bill 2019. For Example:
- Sharing of Metadata: WhatsApp held that the end-to-end encryption clause remains intact, which will ensure that it can’t see your messages or share them with anyone.
- It virtually gives a 360-degree profile into a person's online activity.
- This level of insight into a person's private and personal activities is done without any government oversight at present or regulatory supervision.
- Expediting Data Protection Law: India’s data protection law has been languishing for two years now. If India had a data protection law in place, WhatsApp would not have been able to go ahead with this update in the first place.
- Therefore, India must expedite the process of finalizing the data protection law.
- Further, India should use the current Whatsapp issue to update the already under process intermediary guidelines.
- Public Awareness: According to many experts, WhatsApp users in India will not care too much about this issue, what with privacy policies being generally difficult to be understood by the public.
- Therefore, the government and civil society must engage in awareness programs to make the public aware of the importance of digital privacy.
The privacy of a billion citizens is too important a thing to be left just to the practices of a commercial enterprise. It will be reassuring if a strong law guarantees it.
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