WhatsApp said on Thursday that it would ‘eventually’ start reminding people to review and accept its controversial new privacy policy update.

WhatsApp to move ahead with controversial “take it or leave it” privacy policy update despite India’s strong stand against it

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Updated: February 19, 2021 6:29 PM

The privacy policy update will go into effect on May 15.

WhatsAppThe privacy policy update will go into effect on May 15. (Photo credit: WhatsApp)

WhatsApp said on Thursday that it would ‘eventually’ start reminding people to review and accept its controversial new privacy policy update despite India’s strong stand against it. The updated terms and conditions, currently on hold, will allow WhatsApp to share some user data with parent firm Facebook though it has clarified on multiple occasions that, it “does not affect the privacy of your messages with your friends and family in any way.” The privacy policy update will go into effect on May 15.

The instant messaging platform has been working to clear confusion and ‘misinformation’ around the said update through full-page newspaper ads and WhatsApp status updates. In the coming weeks, WhatsApp will, in addition, start to display a banner within the app “providing more information that people can read at their own pace,” it said.

Also Read WhatsApp says working on addressing misinformation on privacy policy as India takes strong stand against update

WhatsApp clears the air

At the same time, the Facebook-owned company reiterated on how its service continued to remain free for all users and how only those who chose to do business on the platform were charged — that is how WhatsApp makes money. “Some shopping features involve Facebook so that businesses can manage their inventory across apps,” it said. Only and only those individuals who choose to engage with these businesses would be at the centre of the incoming change(s), WhatsApp said, while individual chats would continue to remain private — like always.

While there are deep concerns about privacy, among both privacy advocates and users alike, the bigger concern is WhatsApp not giving an option to opt out (at least at this point of time). The ‘take it or leave it’ nature of the update has raised many eyebrows, and at the same time, it has led many to think about the repercussions going forward. With Facebook embroiled in a string of data leaks in the past, many WhatsApp users are wary of this ‘mandatory’ sharing of data despite its tall privacy claims. Same reason why more and more people have been flocking to rival chat apps like Telegram and Signal in the last few weeks. You can read more about this here.

WhatsApp has maintained that the update did not expand its ability to share data with Facebook anywhere in the world and that, interactions with businesses — which will be opt in — on the platform will be available only to the recipient party for further use rather than being used for targeted advertising by Facebook.

Also Read How to move your WhatsApp chat history to Telegram on Android, iOS: step by step guide, other details

Taking an indirect dig at Telegram, WhatsApp said it was okay for people to ‘check out’ other apps to see what they had to offer but ‘competitors’ couldn’t get away by saying they couldn’t see people’s messages when they themselves didn’t offer end-to-end encryption by default. To be clear, Facebook Messenger also does not offer any end-to-end encryption during chats. “We believe people are looking for apps to be both reliable and safe, even if that requires WhatsApp having some limited data,” it said.

India has categorically told WhatsApp that the platform cannot unilaterally put in such a policy in its biggest market and that WhatsApp was obliged to respect the privacy of its largest user base. Meanwhile, the updated privacy policy does not apply to the European market because of EU’s stern privacy guidelines that WhatsApp is forced to comply with — India has taken a note of this.

“Due to misinformation and based on feedback from our users, we have pushed back the timeline of acceptance of WhatsApp’s terms of service and privacy policy to the 15th of May. In the meantime, we continue to engage with the Government and are grateful for the opportunity to answer questions that we received from them. We have conveyed that we continue to protect the privacy of personal conversations across India and continue with our endeavour to ensure that WhatsApp remains a safe and secure platform for everyone to engage on,” a WhatsApp spokesperson said in statement given out to Financial Express Online over email.

“Recognising our responsibility towards increasing user education and awareness, we continue to build robust programs around user security, integrity and digital literacy across the country. We are eager to continue to help provide a secure and reliable way for people to communicate and for businesses to grow and thrive.”

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