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Government asks WhatsApp to withdraw or revise new policy, gives May 25 deadline

The government has warned action against the firm and says “various options” available to it under Indian law.

May 20, 2021 / 07:38 AM IST
The government has given seven days to WhatsApp to respond to the notice and if no satisfactory response is received, necessary steps in consonance with law will be taken, sources informed.

The government has given seven days to WhatsApp to respond to the notice and if no satisfactory response is received, necessary steps in consonance with law will be taken, sources informed.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has asked messaging platform WhatsApp to withdraw or revise its new privacy policy. The government has warned action against the firm and said that “various options” are available to it under Indian law.

The Facebook-owned company has been given a deadline till May 25 to respond to the concerns raised by the government.

In response, a WhatsApp spokesperson said that the company continues to engage with the government and reiterated that the new update "does not impact the privacy of personal messages for anyone".

"While the majority of users who have received the new terms of service have accepted them, we appreciate some people haven’t had the chance to do so yet. No accounts were deleted on May 15 because of this update and no one in India lost functionality of WhatsApp either," the spokesperson said, adding that the messaging platform will continue "to follow up with reminders to people over the next several weeks".

WhatsApp’s new privacy policy came into effect on May 15, which allows the company to share information collected between user and business can be shared with Facebook.

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While user accounts will not be deleted if they don’t accept the policy, functionality will be limited if they fail to agree to the policy after reminders over several weeks. It could eventually be deleted as well.

In a letter to WhatsApp, the government has said, “Deferral of policy does not absolve WhatsApp from respecting privacy, data security, or user choice. The revised policy, manner of introduction undermines privacy, data security, and choice of Indian users.”

The letter also said that the treatment of Indian users is discriminatory compared to that of European counterparts.

It argues that given the many users depend on WhatsApp for communicating on a daily basis, it is irresponsible for WhatsApp to leverage its position in the Indian market to impose unfair terms and conditions.

The revised privacy policy is in violation of Indian laws and rule and the government will consider various options available to it under laws in India, MeitY said.

“If no satisfactory response is received, necessary steps in consonance with the law will be taken,” it said in the latter. The matter is sub-judice before Delhi HC.
Swathi Moorthy
first published: May 19, 2021 03:05 pm

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