WhatsApp to launch public outreach exercise to push policy

Published on Feb 19, 2021 03:40 AM IST

The move relates to the company’s decision to enforce a new privacy policy, which was under fire by critics who said it allowed WhatsApp to share more data with its parent Facebook without giving users the opportunity to opt out of it.

Whatsapp has said it will now present banner pop-ups on the app to guide users through the policy.(HT Photo)
Whatsapp has said it will now present banner pop-ups on the app to guide users through the policy.(HT Photo)
ByDeeksha Bhardwaj, New Delhi

Mobile messaging service provider WhatsApp has decided to launch a public outreach exercise to explain its controversial privacy policy to users, outlining in more detail what this involves, but seemingly deciding to go ahead with a plan that the Indian government has asked the company to abandon.

The move relates to the company’s decision to enforce a new privacy policy, which was under fire by critics who said it allowed WhatsApp to share more data with its parent Facebook without giving users the opportunity to opt out of it.

In a blog post published early on Friday, the company said it will now simplify the update to make people understand the nuances of the revised policy. “We’ve reflected on what we could have done better here. We want everyone to know our history of defending end-to-end encryption and trust we’re committed to protecting people’s privacy and security.

Read more: SC pulls up FB, WhatsApp over privacy: Key takeaways from proceedings

“We’ve also included more information to try and address concerns we’re hearing. Eventually, we’ll start reminding people to review and accept these updates to keep using WhatsApp,” the company said, indicating that it planned to go ahead with enforcing the policy, which was deferred to May 15.

The company pushed back the enforcement of the policy after backlash in January. As per the new policy, WhatsApp said it will share some data about users’ interactions with business accounts with its parent company Facebook, and that accepting these terms were mandatory in order to use the application.

Read more: ‘Police leaked private WhatsApp chat’: Disha Ravi asks court to stop cops, media

The ministry on January 19 wrote to WhatsApp CEO Will Cathcart expressing “strong concerns” over this and asked the company to roll it back. Earlier this week, the Supreme Court also issued a notice to WhatsApp, asking it to explain its plans, with a remark that Indians highly value their privacy.

A Meity official told HT on Thursday that WhatsApp has not formally conveyed to the government whether it will go ahead with the new policy. “The ministry will respond after it reviews the matter.”

The company has said it will now present banner pop-ups on the app to guide users through the policy.

Watch: WhatsApp explains new privacy policy changes in latest Android beta

The government in its January 19 letter reminded WhatsApp to “respect the informational privacy and data security of Indian users” and pressed it on whether there were different rules for Indian users and those on other countries.

A person familiar with WhatsApp’s policy said India has the same policy as all countries except European Union region, where it needs to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation.

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