Home Cyber law WHAT IS THE NEW WHATSAPP POLICY CONTROVERSY? A BRIEF OVERVIEW

WHAT IS THE NEW WHATSAPP POLICY CONTROVERSY? A BRIEF OVERVIEW

WHAT IS THE WHATSAPP CONTROVERSY?

Earlier this month, the most widely used application in India, WhatsApp updated its policy which is allegedly to come into effect the next month. This Facebook owned messaging platform and its new renewed policy has been sparking many controversies, some people even stating that privacy is nothing but just a myth nowadays. Interestingly, WhatsApp was a cross operating system and became extremely popular over no time. The reason for the same was, complete privacy to its users without laundering of data. It was formed by Brian Acton and Jan Koum and their prime objective was to provide end-to-end encryption and because of this, the general public was quick to shift over to this application for daily communications.  

What exactly is this new policy? In simple words, WhatsApp sent its users an acceptance page, revising its terms and conditions. What was peculiar about this new update was, either accept the conditions or lose the access on the whole. The pop up stated, “By tapping AGREE, you accept the new terms and privacy policy, which take effect on February 8, 2021. After this date, you’ll need to accept these updates to continue using WhatsApp”. 

An update in any policy is considered to be any regular feature which usually takes place once in a while. But this particular update is not a regular one, allegedly, the data can now be shared to Facebook, which is its parent company. 

The update in the year 2019, the policy by WhatsApp stated, “Respect for your privacy is coded into our DNA. Since we started WhatsApp, we have aspired to build our services with a set of strong privacy principles in mind”. 

This policy completely took a turn and now this line isn’t even mentioned in the policy of 2021. The astonishing fact about the same is that it has in a way become “mandatory” for the users to agree to this data sharing, if not, then simply opt out. 

What many people aren’t aware of is the fact that WhatsApp has been sharing/mining personal data ever since 2016, it just now that it has come out in the open. Surprisingly even, your phone number, your phone model, your battery status, the number of logins, your IP number, which contact one is talking to, a bunch of other private information, WhatsApp knows it all. As far as the messages are concerned, the users can have a breather as the messages are end-to-end encrypted, which means that they’re totally safe. For instance, if Mr.X is sending a message to Mr.Y, it will only be seen and accessed by these two individuals. 

As part of the new data policy, a whole lot of data will be shared by Whatsapp to Facebook (parent company) and other companies owned by the same. It can range from bringing personalised advertisements to offers, recommendations and various other things. For an example, if you share a link on Whatsapp regarding buying a new car or any other vehicle, WhatsApp as well as Facebook will take this information, access it and use it to show similar advertisements for the products you’re looking for. 

In short, Facebook and WhatsApp have now complete access to and very information and detail of an individual. In the past, one still had the option to “not share account information”, but now not anymore. Nowadays, people mostly communicate via Whatsapp, be it on an individual level or at a business level. While interacting with a business account on WhatsApp, the one thing to be kept in mind is that your data might be available to a whole range of people. 

Another point of concern regarding this new policy is that Whatsapp doesn’t operate in a vacuum, there are many other interactions which take place, for instance the very widely used Whatsapp pay. Once the payment history is accessed, WhatsApp will be able to access the location history as well, along with all the transactions that take place. 

Section 43A of the Information Technology Act (ITA), puts an obligation on any service provider who has access to this information, to safeguard and protect the data of its users. But, with this new policy, WhatsApp can clearly exploit the very information and privacy of anyone it wants to. 

Worldwide, the countries which are concerned for the privacy and data of its citizens have strict laws in place for preventing the profiling of the individuals. In India, the fundamental right to privacy has been reiterated time and again by the various courts judgments. This policy however goes against the very principle of right to privacy as all the information will be accessed and may even fall in the wrong hands. The PDP Bill, that is the Personal Data Protection Bill isn’t yet in place in India, which is a sign of worry, yet any social media service or network can’t legally take any information or data which one user doesn’t wish this share. 

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