The move, according to digital rights activists, will dilute users’ privacy and maximise data collection. India is one of WhatsApp’s biggest markets with over 400 million users.
Cybersecurity expert Jiten Jain told TOI that while WhatsApp has given its users a “take it or leave it” option, the updated terms and conditions clearly indicate that it is the “end of so-called privacy on the platform”.
According to Jain, the updated terms state that WhatsApp will share data with “businesses”, and, therefore, by extension, with government and law enforcement agencies.
“That data available with and shared by WhatsApp will start resembling Facebook. Facebook shares data with governments on request. It seems like WhatsApp will start doing the same,” he said, adding that in the absence of a privacy law, Indian users will have no recourse if their WhatsApp data is shared with the government and its agencies.
Technology lawyer Mishi Choudhary also said that Facebook would get “forced consent” from users by asking them to just click “Agree” or lose their service. Developing nations like the UK and France had forbidden Facebook from sharing data beyond WhatsApp in 2018, Choudhary said. She added that the “constant dithering and incoherent approach of our legislators around the Data Protection Law has left Indians unprotected”.
The instant messaging app started informing users in India of the updated terms of services through an in-app pop-up notification. Users were given an option to accept the updates by clicking on the “Agree” tab that appeared with the notification. According to the pop-up, users will have to accept the terms or lose access to the app from February 8, 2021.
The Help Centre provided a clearer picture of the changes incorporated by the instant messaging app. “Your account registration information (such as your phone number), transaction data, service-related information, information on how you interact with others (including businesses) when using our Services, mobile device information, your IP address” will be shared with Facebook, according to a FAQ section carrying details of the data-sharing.