WhatsApp Delays Changes Established in Recent Privacy Policy Update Due to Public Outcry and Legal Challenge in India

A combination of general negative public sentiment and a legal challenge in the Indian judicial system has led the popular messaging app WhatsApp to delay the launch of its new privacy and data sharing terms. A privacy policy update from early January revealed that the app planned to increase user data sharing with parent company Facebook, and that users who didn’t sign up by February 8 would lose their accounts.

While the plan is still underway, WhatsApp has pushed back the launch date to May 15. The company announced in a blog post that this was done to give users more time to review the update terms of the privacy policy.

WhatsApp privacy policy update requests rollback, mass migration to other applications

WhatsApp users were surprised with a privacy policy update in early January that asked them to agree to new terms before February 8. Those new terms specified that the application would share more data with the Facebook ad network; Users who were uncomfortable with the development were told they would have to hit the road before the deadline.

While the data that is shared with Facebook’s targeted advertising system is limited to messages exchanged with merchants that use Facebook’s WhatsApp Business API to manage their customer service portals, the announcement of the privacy policy was a case study of poor communication with the public and the cumulative effects of breaking promises to users. Already hurt by an earlier rollback of data sharing and privacy terms in 2016, many WhatsApp users simply heard that “more data is being shared with Facebook” and assumed the worst. Millions of users opted for the more privacy-focused Signal and Telegram apps, in part driven by Twitter endorsements from Elon Musk and Jack Dorsey.

WhatsApp went into full damage control mode, assuring users that personal messages would remain private and encrypted and that Facebook will not scan them. The blog post included the following statement: “We have heard from a lot of people how much confusion there is around our recent update. There has been a lot of misinformation that has caused concern and we want to help everyone understand our principles and facts. WhatsApp was based on a simple idea: what you share with your friends and family stays between you. This means that we will always protect your personal conversations with end-to-end encryption, so that neither WhatsApp nor Facebook can see these private messages. That is why we do not keep records of who they call or text. We also cannot see your shared location and we do not share your contacts with Facebook. With these updates, none of that will change. Instead, the update includes new options that people will have to message a business on WhatsApp and provides greater transparency on how we collect and use data. While not everyone shops with a business on WhatsApp today, we believe that more people will choose to do so in the future and it is important that people are aware of these services. This update does not extend our ability to share data with Facebook. ”

However, Facebook will make use of the messages (including attachments such as receipt scans or images) sent to companies on WhatsApp that use its API (estimated to be north of a thousand worldwide). Users will be notified before sending messages to one of these companies. While that’s not a major privacy concern on its own, WhatsApp hid the details behind several clicks to other pages in its initial announcement.

One factor in the three-month delay in updating the privacy policy appears to be creating more time to devise a better PR strategy. WhatsApp is also grappling with the fallout from Apple’s new iOS “privacy labels,” which reveal that the app (which built its original reputation on strong user privacy before being acquired by Facebook) may be collecting more personal information. than users believe. In the background, Facebook is also grappling with a legal challenge spearheaded by the Federal Trade Commission (and supported by the vast majority of individual state attorneys general) that threatens to undo all of its mergers dating back to 2010; WhatsApp could become a separate operation again if this happened, and it would likely be restricted in coordinating the sharing of personal data with Facebook.

The first legal challenge arises in India

While WhatsApp may win back some of the users it lost with three months of better messages, not all issues related to updating the privacy policy are a PR issue. The company now faces a legal challenge presented in India, its largest individual market, which it claims is violating the country’s laws regarding surveillance of app users and threatening national security.

The national security component of the legal challenge focuses on the fact that WhatsApp handles and stores data using Facebook’s data centers and IBM Cloud storage located in California and Washington DC. The legal challenge, which is currently being considered by the Delhi High Court, garnered high-profile support from leading business figures such as Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma. Sharma tweeted that WhatsApp enjoyed the benefit of a double standard as users in Europe would not be bound by the terms of the new privacy policy update due to a conflict with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The legal challenge was filed by the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), which represents some 40,000 trade associations located across the country. The agency regularly advocates at the highest levels of the Indian government and made headlines in 2020 by calling for a boycott of Chinese products in response to ongoing border tensions between the two countries.

WhatsApp has pushed back the release date to May 15. The delay in updating the privacy policy appears to be creating more time to devise a better public relations strategy. #respectdata

Legal challenges may also be brewing in Turkey, where the app has an 88% penetration rate among mobile Internet users aged 16-64. The country’s Competition Board has launched an investigation into the application based on the terms of the privacy policy update.

Source: cpomagazine

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