Why has there been unrest amongst the public against WhatsApp’s new privacy rules? The foremost reason is the belief that the new norms breach the privacy rights of Indian citizens. Moreover, the government has noted that WhatsApp is discriminating against Indian users by asking them to comply with the new norms while this is not compulsory in European nations. The government also believes that the new privacy norms are in violation of the Information Technology Rules, 2011.
What are the new norms?
While WhatsApp has always maintained that its platform is end-to-end encrypted and that it does not have access to users’ private chats or locations, the new norms will enable WhatsApp to share some of the business conversations hosted on its platform with its parent company, Facebook.
As per industry sources, the new terms will allow Facebook and WhatsApp to share payment and transaction data, enabling them to improve their advertisement targeting, as the social media juggernaut broadens its e-commerce offerings and looks to merge its messaging platforms. WhatsApp has said that personal conversations of individuals will not be shared; instead, what will be shared is the metadata. This metadata will include mobile device information such as the OS, phone model, screen resolution, IP addresses, language and rough location.
Government vs WhatsApp
Implications for users
The most obvious impact for users is likely to be the targeted ads across Facebook-owned platforms. The company will be able to show its users ads based on their browsing and search history across Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp. Additionally, if a user uses WhatsApp to converse with a business account such as MakeMyTrip, Croma or BookMyShow, Facebook will be able to share more data about the users with these business accounts so that partners can offer more personalised services.
In the likelihood of a user not accepting the new terms and conditions, WhatsApp will not delete the user’s account or reduce the features and functionality of the app, as was earlier anticipated. WhatsApp has said that the status quo will be maintained till the data protection law comes into effect in India. However, the company is expected to continue sending reminders to its users.
Implications for competitors
As such, analysts have highlighted that a data protection law is the need of the hour in India and would go a long way in ensuring that uniform practices are followed across the industry and by all players.
Going forward, it will be interesting to watch how the whole WhatsApp privacy scenario unfolds amidst the still fluid regulatory environment in the country.
By Diksha Sharma