Startups

WhatsApp’s new Privacy Policy is a looming threat: ADIF

Read more at economictimes.indiatimes.com

Atmanirbhar Digital India Foundation (ADIF), a newly formed industry association of Indian startups, has alleged that WhatsApp’s recent privacy policy update is a looming threat to the payments and financial data of users and has sought greater oversight from the authorities.

The policy could also lead to increased data sharing between WhatsApp Payments and parent entity Facebook despite the instant messaging platform’s position that the update applies only to WhatsApp Chat, it said in a letter to the Prime Minister’s Office, Reserve Bank of India, and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY).

In the letter addressed to RBI governor Shaktikanta Das, Ajay Data, the secretary-general of ADIF, said that WhatsApp was not being forthright with its intentions with respect to a provision in the WhatsApp Payment policy. According to the provision, “a UPI transaction on WhatsApp Pay utilises Facebook infrastructure and that in certain cases, a user’s limited data may be shared to help provide customer support to the user or keep payments safe and secure.”

“As privacy of data of 40 crore Indian citizens is at stake, Indian government may consider to conduct CERT-IN audit of WhatsApp servers to ensure that payments data is stored only in India and appropriate measures are applied to protect customer data,” Data told ET.

The association has alleged that WhatsApp’s update contravenes the Unified Payments Interface’s procedural guidelines, as it asks users to comply with its amended privacy policy without their explicit consent.

The new policy violates RBI’s localisation mandate, MeitY’s guideline on data disclosure of sensitive information to a third party, and a provision in the IT Act, 2000 for using an individual’s personal information without user consent, the association said in the letter.

The RBI and the government should prohibit the messaging app from offering any services that deal with the personal sensitive data of Indian users and consider suspending or completely banning all operations of WhatsApp Pay on account of user privacy violations, it further recommended.

To protect consumer data from WhatsApp and Facebook, ADIF also suggested that the authorities should ask WhatsApp to immediately and permanently roll back amendments in its privacy policy in India.

After a public uproar, WhatsApp last week postponed the implementation of its policy update by three months to May.

To avoid monetization of Indian users’ data in future, ADIF has also asked the authorities not to permit social media intermediary institutions to operate both as financial services providers as well as social media platforms. It also suggested that WhatsApp’s messaging app be segregated from its payments app to ensure transparency and security of financial services.

The association has also taken issue with WhatsApp’s conduct and its treatment of European users who are granted greater protection and has demanded better safeguards for Indian consumers.

The nations in the European Union are governed by strict privacy laws under its General Data Protection Regulation, a legal framework that sets guidelines for collecting and processing personal information from individuals who live in the economic bloc.

ADIF’s members include chief executives such as Murugavel Janakiraman of Bharat Matrimony, Snehil Khanor of TrulyMadly, and Sairee Chahal of SHEROES, among others.

It was formed two weeks ago amid growing concerns among domestic startups around alleged monopoly risks posed by Big Tech companies.

Read more at economictimes.indiatimes.com

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