In a strongly worded letter to WhatsApp CEO Will Cathcart, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said India is home to the largest WhatsApp user base globally and is one of the largest markets for its services.
The ministry asked WhatsApp to withdraw the proposed changes and to reconsider its approach to information privacy, freedom of choice and data security.
Stating that Indians should be properly respected, the ministry said “any unilateral changes to WhatsApp’s Terms of Service and privacy would not be fair and acceptable.” With over 400 million users in India, the changes will have a disproportionate impact on the country’s citizens, he said.
He asked WhatsApp to provide details on the services it provides in India, the categories of data collected and the required permissions and consents.
WhatsApp was also asked to provide the data and information security, privacy and encryption policy.
It was also asked to detail sharing data with other apps and whether it captures information about other apps running on the user’s cell phones.
In addition, they were asked to provide the full technical architecture and server hosting data of the Indian users along with third party login details.
The changes “enable WhatsApp and more Facebook companies, to make invasive and precise inferences about users that may not reasonably be expected or expected by users in the ordinary course of evaluating these services, the ministry said.
The updated terms would allow WhatsApp to collect “highly invasive and granular metadata” such as the time, frequency and duration of interactions, group names, payments and transaction data, online status, location indicators, and any message shared by users with corporate accounts.
“Collecting and sharing with Facebook companies, of sensitive personal data of individuals portends an ecosystem in which any meaningful distinction between companies and WhatsApp will cease to exist, “he said.
“This approach has the potential to violate the fundamental values of Indian data privacy, user choice and user autonomy,” he said.
The new terms have sparked protests from tech-savvy, privacy advocates, and users, and sparked a wave of defections for competing services like Signal.
In the updated policy, you have the right to share the collected data from WhatsApp users with the widest Facebook network, which includes Instagram, regardless of having accounts or profiles there.
Some companies, according to the new policy, should have used Facebook-server owned to store messages.
This triggered an outcry regardless of WhatsApp’s claim that all private messages between friends and family remain end-to-end encrypted.
Stating that the proposed changes create a systemic vulnerability, the ministry said the government expects WhatsApp “to take all information security measures as per law.”
He went on to say that the personal data protection bill is under discussion by a joint parliamentary committee and is making “a sea change for its Indian users right now puts the cart before the horse.” Furthermore, Indian users are subject to different treatment than their European counterparts where the changes do not apply.
“By not providing Indian users with the ability to opt out of sharing this data with others Facebook companies, WhatsApp treats users with an “all or nothing” approach, “the ministry said.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)