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Has WhatsApp Lost Its Way With The New Privacy Policy, In India? IT Rules 2021 Add Another Twist

By: Vishal Mathur

Last Updated: May 27, 2021, 11:02 IST

(Image: WhatsApp)

(Image: WhatsApp)

There has been a significant climb down with WhatsApp saying they will not be limiting functionality of the app for users who do not accept the new privacy policy, in India.

WhatsApp really set the cat amongst the pigeons at the turn of the year, when the new privacy policy and terms of use were unveiled. It was pretty much an optionally mandatory opt-in, so to say. You either except or you’ll have to exit the app. Among the many clarifications and updates in the new privacy policy and terms of use, which WhatsApp simply calls “update”, the Facebook-owned app details how WhatsApp’s service handles your data as well as how WhatsApp partners with the larger Facebook platform to allow integrations across multiple apps, including Instagram and Facebook Messenger. Three large buckets under which the new terms have been categorized. How businesses can manage their chats using Facebook tools, more information about how your WhatsApp data is processed and illustrations of how that data ties in with the larger Facebook app ecosystem requirements called “how we work with Facebook”.

There has been a significant climb down since, from WhatsApp, particularly in India. The latest is that WhatsApp will not be limiting the functionality of the app for users who do not accept the new privacy policy and terms of service. WhatsApp now believes that this status quo shall be maintained till the data protection law comes into effect in India. earlier, WhatsApp has been very clear in saying that for any user who doesn’t accept these terms of service, they’ll first be sent persistent reminders post which, functionality shall start getting blocked—this included restricting access to your chats on WhatsApp and eventually calls as well. While India has been persistently pushing back against the new privacy policy, the German regulators have since banned the implementation of this policy and that’s something the European Union (EU) is also reported to be considering. In India, the Facebook-owned WhatsApp seems to have found ammunition in the new IT Rules 2021, to mount a fight back.

WhatsApp Along With Facebook And Twitter Isn’t Getting Banned
Let us get this out of the way, first and foremost. If social media companies do not comply with the new IT Rules 2021, it has been clearly stated that the legal immunity protecting them from content shared on their platforms, will be withdrawn. That does not mean they’ll get banned. The new Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, also known as the new IT Rules 2021, are now in effect.
Read More: Facebook, WhatsApp And Twitter Are Not Getting Banned Anytime Soon: This Is What The Rules Indicate

WhatsApp Has Challenged The New IT Rules
WhatsApp, which has been in a legal battle with the Government of India over the privacy policy, has filed a legal complaint against the government over the new IT Rules 2021. They say these rules. Are a violation of privacy rights in India’s constitution. The requirement by the government to have the details of the original sender of a message will require WhatsApp to rework the end-to-end encryption for the platform—this protects and encrypts the message and the sender as well as receiver details. If WhatsApp has to find the sender of a message, this will need to be turned off. Or at least reworked significantly. As of March this year, WhatsApp has more than 390 million users in India, while the encryption standards are global and applicable for all users to secure all messages sent and received on the platform. It is not clear when India’s Personal Data Protection (PDP) law comes into effect.
Read more: WhatsApp Approaches Delhi High Court; Says New Media Rules Can Violate User Privacy

Your WhatsApp Won’t Be Limited, For The Time Being
WhatsApp has said it will not limit the functionality for users who are not agreeing to its new privacy policy but will continue to remind them about the new privacy policy update. This will be in effect till the forthcoming data protection law comes into effect. Earlier, WhatsApp has said that the ability to send and receive messages as well as calls would be restricted, in a phased manner, for users who don’t accept the new privacy policy.
Also Read: WhatsApp Won’t Limit Functionality for Users Till Data Protection Law Comes into Force

India Had Asked WhatsApp Again To Take Back The ‘Discriminatory’ Policy
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has once again directed Facebook-owned messaging platform WhatsApp to take back its new Privacy Policy. In a communication sent to WhatsApp on 18th May, 2021 the Ministry has once again told WhatsApp to withdraw its Privacy Policy 2021 as the changes to the Privacy Policy and the manner of introducing these changes including in FAQ undermines the sacrosanct values of informational privacy, data security, and user choice for Indian users and harms the rights and interests of Indian citizens.
Read More: IT Ministry Asks WhatsApp to Take Back New Privacy Policy Again; Case Under Trial in Delhi HC

Telegram and Signal See 1,200% Growth, Thanks To WhatsApp
It is surely no surprise that users who weren’t in any mood to give in to WhatsApp’s new privacy policy so easily have been trying every which way possible to find an alternative instant messaging app that doesn’t use their data so generously. According to numbers by research firm SensorTower, Telegram and Signal, which are seen as WhatsApp’s biggest rivals, witnessed nearly 1,200 percent growth ahead of the belatedly implemented privacy policy deadline on May 15. Numbers suggest that Telegram’s downloads on Android and iOS grew 98 percent year-over-year (YoY) to more than 161 million, while Signal saw its first-time downloads surge 1,192 percent YoY to 64.6 million between January to April 2021.
Read More: Telegram and Signal Saw Nearly 1,200% Growth Ahead of WhatsApp’s New Privacy Policy Deadline

The Courts Sought What The Government Thinks Of WhatsApp’s New Policy
The Delhi High Court has sought a response from the Government of India, for a plea challenging the new privacy policy that WhatsApp implemented on May 15. A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh issued notices to the central government as well as WhatsApp and parent company Facebook, for responses as it hears a petition which challenges the new policy and says it violates users’ right to privacy under the Constitution of India.
Read More: HC Seeks Stand of Centre, Facebook, WhatsApp on Plea Against New Privacy Policy

The Government’s Views Are Very Clear: This Is A Violation Of IT Laws
The centre told the Delhi High Court that it views the new privacy policy of WhatsApp as a violation of the Indian Information Technology (IT) law and rules, and sought directions to the social media platform to make it clear whether it was confirming to the same. WhatsApp told the bench that while its new privacy policy has come into effect from May 15, it would not start deleting accounts of those users who have not accepted it and would try to encourage them to get on board.
Read More: WhatsApp’s New Privacy Policy Still Violates India’s IT Laws: Govt to Delhi High Court

Much Ado About Nothing? Actually, No. WhatsApp’s New Policy Is A Big Deal
May 15. The day when the new WhatsApp privacy policy finally came into effect. WhatsApp is making some pretty big changes to its privacy policy and the terms of service, if you are to continue using the instant messenger. This was first teased earlier this year but pushed back after vociferous criticism from users. The Facebook-owned instant messenger details how WhatsApp’s service handles your data as well as how WhatsApp partners with the larger Facebook platform to allow integrations across multiple apps, including Instagram and Facebook Messenger. WhatsApp says that they collect user information to be able to provide services and customize the experience for the user.
Read More: Did You Get A New WhatsApp Privacy Policy Popup? More Clarity On Your Data Usage, But That’s About It

You Have Many Questions, Don’t You? We Try To Answer As Many As We Can
The new WhatsApp privacy policy makes it very clear that your data is collected and what all is it used for regarding what is actually is collected, how they collect your location information, how everything ties in with other Facebook services and what Businesses on WhatsApp can do with your data. WhatsApp makes it clear that they do share information with other Facebook companies. Some of the data that’s collected includes your mobile phone number and your profile name to create and run a WhatsApp account, your location information at all times, IP addresses and other information like phone number area codes to estimate your general location and businesses on the platform can share your information with third-party service providers.
Read More: WhatsApp’s Update Policy To Appear As In-App Banner: All Your Questions Answered About New Terms

What If You Haven’t Accepted WhatsApp’s New Terms Of Friendship, Just Yet?
The implementation of the much-criticized WhatsApp privacy policy was significantly delayed because of user feedback yet has still been pushed through. Albeit with one tiny change. No, nothing within the privacy policy has really changed, except that the Facebook owned WhatsApp wont simply delete your WhatsApp account if you don’t accept it. Instead, you’ll still lose a whole lot of functionality instead at some point. This includes periodic added restrictions of access to your chat list, notifications and calls. And it’ll be a slow lockdown of how you access WhatsApp. Designed to perhaps make you eventually give up?
Read More: WhatsApp’s Much Criticized Privacy Policy Kicks In Tomorrow: If You Don’t Accept, This Is What Happens

Had Enough And Don’t Have The Energy To Deal With This Complexity?
The WhatsApp privacy policy is very much here to stay, and chances are, you’d have been prompted in the past few hours to accept. If you haven’t already The latest from the Facebook-owned WhatsApp is that while they won’t rudely delete your WhatsApp account if you don’t accept the privacy policy, you’ll still lose a whole lot of functionality instead, till you accept. This includes periodic added restrictions of access to your chat list, notifications and calls. Here is how to delete your WhatsApp account.
Read More: Want To Delete WhatsApp And Don’t Wish To Accept The New Update? This Is What You Need To Do

Nothing To See Here! WhatsApp Basically Blames You For Falling For Misinformation
After what was a massive PR disaster, WhatsApp tried to do damage limitation by pushing back the implementation of the new privacy policy and terms of use. But not before the Facebook-owned WhatsApp made it clear in an official statement that pretty much puts the blame, and indeed the onus on us as users—apparently thousands, if not millions, of users around the world are confused and misinformed about the update, and hence the confusion and misinformation. Apparently, there was nothing ever to be worried about.
Read More: WhatsApp Blames You For Falling For Misinformation, But Can It Keep Brushing Things Under The Carpet?

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