WhatsApp privacy policy: Parl panel flags concern

NEW DELHI: Members of a parliamentary panel on Thursday flagged the issue of proposed changes in the privacy policy of WhatsApp and highlighted concerns of Indian citizens, sources said.
WhatsApp representatives who appeared before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology said the proposed changes are aimed at bringing in more transparency and the chat and calls on platform still remain end-to-end encrypted, some of the members said.
Some other members who attended the meeting maintained that the company was “evasive” in its reply on the issue of how it can bring in changes which are not conducive for Indian users. “They had no reply,” said a member.
The member also claimed that company representative agreed that data was being monetised.
The committee interacted separately with representatives of Facebook, Twitter and ministry of electronics and information technology.
After the meeting, a WhatsApp spokesperson said in a statement, “We wish to thank the Honorable Parliamentary Committee for giving us an opportunity to appear before them and provide our views. We look forward to assisting the Hon’ble Committee in future as well.”
In a strongly-worded letter to WhatsApp CEO Will Cathcart, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology had earlier this week said the proposed changes to the WhatsApp Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, without giving users an option to opt-out, “raise grave concerns regarding the implications for the choice and autonomy of Indian citizens”.
The letter noted that with over 400 million users in India, the changes will have a disproportionate impact on the country’s citizens.
WhatsApp had earlier this month begun asking its 2 billion users worldwide to accept an update of its privacy policy if they want to keep using the popular messaging app. The new terms caused an outcry among technology experts, privacy advocates and users and triggered a wave of defections to rival services such as Signal and Telegram.
In the updated policy, it got a right to share data it collected from WhatsApp users with the broader Facebook network, which includes Instagram, regardless of owning any accounts or profiles there. Some businesses, as per the new policy, were to use Facebook-owned servers to store messages.
This triggered an outcry regardless of WhatsApp’s assertion that all private messages between friends and family members remain end-to-end encrypted.
WhatsApp had on January 16 delayed the introduction of the new privacy policy to May 15 after user backlash over sharing of user data and information with the parent company, Facebook Inc.

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