The governments have stepped into the piracy issue regarding the latest update of WhatsApp and has started to examine the new mandate of the company which asks users to agree by 8th February. Official sources told that they are collecting details and indicated that the government is keeping a watch regarding the concerns about the potential privacy violations in the new updates of WhatsApp which involves sharing particular business or transactional data with Facebook, who is the parent of the world’s biggest messenger.
The new privacy terms of WhatsApp provides the right to the user to share user data that includes location, phone number, contacts list and usage pattern with Facebook and its units like Instagram and Messenger. The move is being questioned by privacy advocates, entrepreneurs like Tesla founder Elon Musk and particular government agencies abroad and citing the poor track record of Facebook in handling user data.
Sources stated that the government’s concern arises from different factors like the ‘regulatory vacuum’ in the data protection space in India in the absence of data protection law in the country. A bill for a data law has been already introduced in the Parliament but a law might not come anytime soon. The official source also added that the privacy update brought by WhatsApp in user agreement in European Union is seen as lenient and in India, it is wide-ranging and might have terms that can potentially harm the privacy of the user.
A detailed questionnaire was also sent to WhatsApp which did not get any response. The government already has various run-ins with Facebook and WhatsApp on different matters like the Cambridge Analytical data leak issue and the spate of lynching matters that were blamed in the spread of fake messaging on WhatsApp. When all this happened, messenger did not agree to pay heed to the government’s request to help disclose or identify the source of fake and inflammatory messages saying that the user’s chats are encrypted.
The current problem is being discussed at the highest level at the IT Ministry and any action or step taken in this matter will be taken after that. The government might also seek particular explanations from WhatsApp related to the proposed changes and although the company did not answer to any source queries to this effect.