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Tap on Agree? A choice between Privacy and Whatsapp

Vishakha Amin

“Whatsapp is updating its terms and privacy policy”, “Use Signal”, “Mobile numbers of WhatsApp Web users Found on Google” has created a stir amongst conscious Whatsapp users, now even more with the judgement of the Delhi High Court.

In India, most of them buy Android phones just to access Whatsapp. In the times of lockdown, it has been the conventional platform for connecting and sharing information, doggo memes, class schedules, folklores and what not It has been a most widely used messaging app as it claims to be Secure Reliable messaging moreover it is free. But with the recent updates in its privacy policy, the question arises if WhatsApp is actually free or are we paying the price with our privacy!

What’s the updated policy?

WhatsApp will share user data, including location, phone number and usage pattern, with Facebook and its subsidiary companies such as Instagram and Messenger, for conversations between users and businesses.

Whatsapp already holds some data about its users and so does its parent company- Facebook. This data is separate trenches and if these trenches are consolidated, the user’s information gets together to make uncanny profiles.

What all be shared by Whatsapp?

WhatsApp will share user data, including location, contacts list and usage pattern with Facebook and its group companies for “improvement in their services.”

What will be our data used for?

Facebook, the parent company is more of an advertising company than a social media platform. A major chunk of their income comes from advertising. So far only Facebook data was used to shoot ads but with the new consolidation with Whatsapp, more the mapping of information leading to more targeted ads. It’s a new business model in the guise of the privacy policy.

End-to-End Encryption

Whatsapp does not share any messages. The messages are between the sender and receiver, no third party, not even Whatsapp can read the chats. Sounds good but sadly it is not so!

End-to-end Encryption means nothing when ‘Meta Data’ is collected.

Meta data is the data that provides information about other data. It doesn’t read the text message but everything around it will be read.

Eg: Ms A calls the parlour didi every month for routine skin care. Whatsapp does not know what was been discussed, but it can see other details like the time and the person you talked to. Now, if the number and the Facebook profile are linked then WhatsApp and Facebook together know the frequency and nature of your requirements and accordingly shoot personalised ads at Ms A.

Is it mandatory for you to agree to the updated policy?

Yes, it is a like it or lump it proposal, either you agree to it or leave it. Users have not been provided with the option to opt-out from the data sharing.

These new terms and policies have activated the conscious minds from everywhere, inflaming discussion on data privacy. Affected by this situation, many users have started moving to applications such as Telegram and Signal, in the middle of Facebook being a go-getter in data management.

Policy Vs Privacy

A writ petition has been filed by Advocate Chaitanya Rohilla in the Delhi High Court challenging new Privacy Policy introduced by the instant messaging app, Whatsapp, as being violative of citizen’s Right to privacy and it is also threatening India’s national security.

“This level of insight into a person’s private and personal activities is done without any government oversight at present or regulatory supervision. Moreover, in the absence of a data protection authority, it leaves the users with a company’s own assurances and privacy policies,” the plea stated.

“The sharing of users’ data by WhatsApp to third parties and Facebook is in itself illegal because WhatsApp can only use the information for purposes that are reasonably linked to the purpose for which the information was given. A user who has signed up to WhatsApp because they want to communicate. Users’ provide their data to WhatsApp for this, whereas WhatsApp is using this data and sharing it with third-party services and Facebook to run their own businesses. It emphatically implies that the purpose that WhatsApp is using the information for is not reasonably connected to the purpose for which the user is giving that information to WhatsApp.” the plea added.

Right to privacy is a requisite of Right to Life and personal liberty which comes under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. It should be noted that fundamental rights are those which ensure the political freedom of a citizen. Without fundamental rights all-round development of a citizen is hampered, a citizen won’t be able to live in a dignified manner. Now a question arises as to whether opting out of WhatsApp is really affecting the dignity of a citizen? Will it be a hurdle in a citizen’s growth?

Considering these aspects it can be said that Whatsapp is not forming an essential part of anyone’s food clothing and shelter.

There are alternatives for the said messaging app. Therefore, on 18th January 2021, the single judge bench of Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva of the Delhi High Court said that the Whatsapp is a private app and it is voluntary for a citizen to use it.

Also read: https://www.lawinsider.in/you-have-an-option-dont-use-the-app-delhi-hc-on-plea-against-whatsapp-new-privacy-policy/

Messaging application collects from their users:

  • WhatsApp Data Collection

Device ID, User ID, Advertising Data, Purchase History, Coarse Location, Phone Number, Email Address, Contacts, Product Interaction, Crash Data, Performance Data, Other Diagnostic Data, Payment Info, Customer Support, Product Interaction and Other User Content.

  • Telegram Data Collection

User ID, Contacts, and Contact Info

  • Signal Data Collection

Only your phone number

The Union government of India has come forward to address this issue, and the officials of the Information Technology Ministry said that they are keeping track of developments.

The government is preparing a personal data protection bill, which is presently going through an assessment of a parliamentary board. The bill advocates forbidding companies from gathering users’ data overseas.

Be Prudent. Take note of the asterisk*

Meanwhile, it is up to us to be aware of everything around us and not just carelessly accept the terms and policies we come across. Judge and act prudently!