India’s government asks court to block WhatsApp’s policy update

19 Mar 2021

Image: © Aleksei/Stock.adobe.com

The messaging app postponed its policy changes in January and officials remain unconvinced that the changes are permissible.

WhatsApp’s planned policy changes have hit another snag with India moving to block the company from implementing the updates.

As reported by TechCrunch, officials have claimed that WhatsApp’s policy update – due to take effect on 15 May – violates local laws.

The claims were made in a filing to a court in Delhi, asking the court to block the company from changing the policy.

Information collected by social media is “susceptible to being misused if the social media giant decides to either sell or exploit the information, sensitive to the users, to any third party,” the filing said.

It is the latest move from India which joined a chorus of critics in January that took issue with the Facebook-owned messaging app’s planned updated to its privacy policy.

There was much backlash internationally against the changes over how data may be shared between WhatsApp and its parent company.

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WhatsApp postponed the update to May but months on, Indian officials remained unconvinced.

Other regulators and jurisdictions have also taken issue with the changes. Earlier this month, South Africa’s information regulator stated that WhatsApp couldn’t collect and share users’ contact information without the authority’s go-ahead.

India is a significant market for WhatsApp where it has more than 500m users but the privacy policy isn’t the only hurdle Facebook has met in the country.

The government is attempting to pass new digital media regulations that could force messaging apps to break end-to-end encryption. WhatsApp has stood firm against several governments in its insistence that it will not break encryption for any authority.

It adds to tense relations between the two sides as WhatsApp persists with expanding its presence in the massive market. Reuters reported that the company has hired a former Amazon executive to oversee WhatsApp’s payment business in the country.

While the payments features have been approved by Indian regulators, it is capped at 20m users for now.

Jonathan Keane is a freelance business and technology journalist based in Dublin

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