WhatsApp’s new privacy policy

Yet another reason why India needs data protection law

New Delhi – WhatsApp’s updated privacy policy, which was made known on 4th January, essentially takes away the choice users had until now to not share their data with other Facebook-owned and third-party Apps. If users do not agree with the updated privacy policy of the messaging platform, they will have to quit WhatsApp by 8th February – when the new terms of service are set to come into effect.

“What is practically happening is, I am a user who has signed up to WhatsApp because I want to communicate with my friends and family. So I am giving my data for this, while you are using this data and sharing it with people to run their own businesses. That, actually, is the core of the issue – that the purpose you are using the information for is not reasonably connected to the purpose for which the user is giving that information to you”, Arghya Sengupta, Research Director at Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, explained.

It virtually gives a 360-degree profile into a person’s Online activity. This level of insight into a person’s private and personal activities is done without any Government oversight at present or regulatory supervision.

Had the data protection law or regulation been in place, this issue would not have arisen in the first place, said Arghya Sengupta. “Section 5 of the Personal Data Protection Bill, which was introduced by the Parliament, and which came out of the Srikrishna Committee Report, says that you can only use the information for purposes that are reasonably linked to the purpose for which the information was given. If that section was there, then this (the new update in WhatsApp’s privacy policy) would have been illegal”.

In fact, India’s data protection law has been languishing for two years now. Sengupta feels that 99.9 per cent of WhatsApp users in India will not care too much about this issue, what with privacy policies being generally difficult to be understood by the public.