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New Whatsapp Policy and related Privacy issues

Topics Covered: Cyber security related issues.

New Whatsapp Policy and related Privacy issues:


Context:

Recently, WhatsApp has updated its privacy policy.

  • As per the new policy, whatsapp may now share information of any of its users with its family of companies including Facebook.
  • This new update has caused a lot of concern over the privacy of the people that use this application.

Key Features of the Policy:

  1. Information Sharing with Third Party Services: When users rely on third-party services or other Facebook Company Products that are integrated with our Services, those third-party services may receive information about what you or others share with them.
  2. Hardware Information: WhatsApp collects information from devices such as battery level, signal strength, app version, browser information, mobile network, connection information (including phone number, mobile operator or ISP) among others.
  3. Deleting the Account: If someone only deletes the WhatsApp app from their device without using the in-app delete my account feature, then that user’s information will remain stored with the platform.
  4. Data Storage: WhatsApp mentions that it uses Facebook’s global infrastructure and data centers including those in the United States to store user data. It also states that the data in some cases will be transferred to the United States or other parts where Facebook’s affiliate companies are based.
  5. Location: Even if a user does not use their location-relation features, Whatsapp collects IP addresses and other information like phone number area codes to estimate your general location (city, country).
  6. Payment Services: WhatsApp says that if anyone uses their payments services they will process additional information about you, including payment account and transaction information.

Issues and concerns:

  1. The new Whatsapp policy contradicts the recommendations of the Srikrishna Committee report, which forms the basis of the Data Protection Bill 2019.
  2. The principle of Data Localisation, which aims to put curbs on the transfer of personal data outside the country, may come in conflict with WhatsApp’s new privacy policy.
  3. With the updated privacy policy, WhatsApp can now share one’s metadata, essentially everything beyond the conversation’s actual text.
  4. If users disagree with the messaging platform’s updated privacy policy, they will have to quit WhatsApp when the new terms of service are set to come into effect.

Conclusion:

As the Supreme court in K. Puttaswamy’s judgment held that the right to privacy is a fundamental right, the Whatsapp new policy is yet another reason why India needs data protection law.

Sources: the Hindu.