Home Deep DiveArticles WhatsApp Latest Privacy Policy & its Global Business Implications

WhatsApp Latest Privacy Policy & its Global Business Implications

by R Manoj

It’s not just consumers who are worried about latest WhatsApp’s policy changes. The policy will also have implications in the business world. Read on to know more…

After announcing on Saturday that it is moving back by three months the date by which people will be asked to review and accept the new privacy policy and terms, WhatsApp put out a status update on all Indian user accounts on Sunday, stating it can’t read or listen to personal conversations and that it doesn’t share user contacts with Facebook.

WhatsApp also said it is going to do a lot more to clear up the misinformation around how privacy and security works on the platform and that it will go to people gradually to review the policy at their own pace before new business options become available on May 15.

WhatsApp Business Privacy Concern
It’s not just consumers who are worried about WhatsApp’s policy changes. In a blog posted last week, WhatsApp said its updated privacy policy is only applicable to users communicating with a business account. This, not only points fingers at how and why its privacy policy does not attest to the same, but also how an individual’s right to data protection and privacy right cannot be compromised even whilst communicating with a business account.

Businesses that use WhatsApp’s application programming interface, or API, to reach customers and deliver sensitive documents are also concerned about the changes, which would see deeper integration of the messaging platform with Facebook.

E-pharmacy platform for instance, sends its lab test results to consumers’ WhatsApp accounts based on the user’s consent. Similarly, some of the movie ticketing firm, online travel-booking companies, online home services send booking and other relevant details on WhatsApp, if the customers opt for it.

These businesses should take a closer look at the new privacy policy as they regularly use WhatsApp to transmit private data like health test results and financial statements, or even personal information like travel and hotel bookings. All business companies should evaluate if they want to continue using the WhatsApp channel for communicating crucial data and personal information with their end users.

Given the proposed data sharing plans of WhatsApp Business, companies should been concerned and should evaluate its impact on the privacy of our users. As WhatsApp moves from being a communication platform to a data gathering and analysis platform, organizations should engage in a deeper debate to ensure the privacy of its end users.

Business Implications
Millions of business interactions take place every day on WhatsApp, and the new privacy updates are supposedly to make these easier while also enabling personalized ads on Facebook. After all this, WhatsApp has pushed the update to May 15.

The change will ultimately be inevitable, given that WhatsApp, bought by Facebook for a whopping $19 billion and having subsequently given up plans to charge its users, would be betting on its handling of business interactions to make its big monies.

Even then, it cannot force these changes on its users in Europe. For, Europe’s stringent General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), prevents such sharing between apps. Users In European countries are in control of their data much more than anywhere else in the world. India could also do with such a law that prevents social media companies from mining users data compromising the end user’s privacy. But, all it has now is a draft version of a law, and it has been been for a long time that India needs to act fast on it. That is because privacy of a billion citizens is too important a thing to be left just to the practices of a commercial enterprise like Facebook Inc. It will be reassuring if it is guaranteed by a strong law in India and all other countries.

The Ground Reality
WhatsApp giving unsolicited messages in user statuses for the first time ever in the history of WhatsApp is a testament of how ads will slowly creep into the application. WhatsApp is now at the receiving end of posts and messages on social media about its privacy policy.

Even if the new privacy policy is only applicable to those with a business account on WhatsApp or those communicating with a business account, it doesn’t mean that you lose your individual right to data protection and privacy.

Despite the repeated claims by Facebook-owned WhatsApp that the user’s conversation on its platform are end-to-end encrypted — WhatsApp continues to face deep distrust among users around its new privacy policy.

The ‘take it or leave it’ policy doesn’t seems appropriate when WhatsApp claims that privacy and security are in its DNA. It’s high time that WhatsApp must realize that its end users are its biggest market. And if the users are not convinced about WhatsApp privacy and security concerns, all of the WhatsApp damage control exercise is bound to fail.

The privacy of citizens around the world is too important to be left to the business practices of social media companies.

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