In a written letter to WhatsApp Global CEO Will Cathcart, the IT ministry asked the company to furnish responses to the government’s query regarding the privacy, data transfer and sharing policies, official sources told news agency ANI. Also Read - WhatsApp Group Calls Update: Now You Can Join an Ongoing Group Call That You Just Missed. Here's How
The Ministry raised concerns of information security of the users as the new policy of WhatsApp proposes to share the metadata of users’ chat with Business accounts with other Facebook companies. It would create a honeypot of information about users with Facebook group which can create security risks and vulnerabilities for the users. Also Read - WhatsApp Rolls Out New Feature of Joinable Calls, Allows One to Join a Group Call That They Missed; Check Details
It also objected to the “all-or-nothing” approach of WhatsApp that forces users to accept the new service terms and privacy policies, without giving an option to the users to opt-out of this proposed change of integrating user data with other Facebook companies.
WhatsApp has drawn massive criticism from users globally, including India over concerns that data was being shared with its parent company, Facebook. WhatsApp, on its part, has maintained that messages on the platform are end-to-end encrypted and that neither WhatsApp nor Facebook can see the private messages on WhatsApp’s platform.
Key questions raised by Centre to WhatsApp:
* Disclose the exact categories of data that WhatsApp application collects from Indian users.
* Give details of the permissions and user consent sought by WhatsApp app and utility of each of these with respect to the functioning and specific service provided.
* Does WhatsApp conduct profiling of Indian users on the basis of their usage of application? What nature of profiling is conducted?
* Details of difference between WhatsApp privacy policies in other countries and India.
* Does the WhatsApp app share data with any other app or business unit of the same company or associated companies? Share details of the data flow among these apps, business units or associated companies.
* Does the WhatsApp app capture the information about the other apps running on the mobile device of the user? If yes, what information is being captured by the app and what purpose is it being collected and used?
* Details about the server when data of Indian users is transmitted or hosted.
* Has the company or application provided any access to a third party to access a user’s personal data? If yes, then share those details.
A recent survey by Mashable stated that WhatsApp may lose up to 15 per cent customers in India over its privacy controversy. Moreover, around 36 per cent users may reduce their usage of the app drastically.
WhatsApp had also stated that it is open to answering any questions from the government on the issue and that it remains committed to the privacy and security of users across India.
With Agency inputs