Facebook-owned popular Instant messaging service “Whatsapp” is getting a lot of flack from Indian users, tech enthusiasts and other important official figures, since its last software update which, as per Cybersecurity experts, removed the platform’s earlier emphasis on “Privacy” and “Security.”
However, judging by Facebook’s recent downfall in the light of Cambridge Analytica and other massive data breach scandals, WhatsApp is unlikely to gain back public trust any time soon. Here’s the entire story
WhatsApp Takes Facebook Route Gets The Same Hate
Facebook bought WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014, and the instant messaging app has been sharing data with its parent company since September 2016.
Additionally, WhatsApp has officially stated that it uses location information even if you don’t use location-related features. WhatsApp uses your phone number and area code to estimate your general location (City or town).
Dire Warning From The Experts
Unfortunately, despite being the only law aimed at protecting the privacy of Indians, it is flexible enough for services like WhatsApp as they can continue collecting data from its users without major repercussions.
According to WhatsApp, it is an American based company and therefore complies with the state laws of California and Federal laws of the United States. However, any foreign service provider functioning in the country automatically comes under the Indian IT Act of 2000.
If the platform is caught misusing any Indian’s data, it can be taken to court under the same act.
Should The Indian Government Step In?
Yes, says a majority of Cyberlaw experts. India is already on the cusp of receiving a new data protection bill based on the recommendation of the Srikrishna committee.
However, the committee recommends data localisation for protection, and experts argue that it has the potential to be used for domestic surveillance.
Presently, the Indian government is miffed by the WhatsApp’s geography-based policy discrimination in which European users are excluded from the new update.
WhatsApp responded to the official request with an eagerness to clear any misconception regarding their updated policy. In a company statement, the official spokesperson said
“WhatsApp will always protect personal messages with end-to-end encryption so that neither WhatsApp nor Facebook can see them. We are working to address misinformation and remain available to answer any questions,”
WhatsApp also said that the new policy does not extend platforms power to share data with Facebook.
What Now For WhatsApp?
However, in a tweet made on 15 Jan, WhatsApp made it clear that no one will have their accounts suspended or deleted on the said date as they plan to take the next step with a proper review.
WhatsApp reiterated that they don’t see your private messages or hear your phone calls. The instant messaging app will now roll out new business features on May 15.
WhatsApp’s situation is either a PR nightmare or just another example of growing public mistrust in social media platforms. Either way, there has never been a time more suited to launch a robust data protection bill for Indians than now.