This gives a high degree of information into a person’s online activity. This level of insight into a person’s private and personal activities is done without any government oversight at present or regulatory supervision.
The new policy of WhatsApp essentially takes away the choice users had until now to not share their data with other Facebook-owned and third-party apps. The online privacy is not easy for over one billion citizens of India as Facebook and WhatsApp have lobbied against the data protection law for long.
‘Take it or leave it’ Policy
When WhatsApp was launched globally, way back in 2009 — it had made commitments that it will not sell user data to any third party. This changed after Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp in 2014, and in 2017, it started sharing data with its parent company — but users were given a choice to not opt for this. Now, this has changed into a ‘take it or leave it’ policy.
Double Standards of WhatsApp
Niamh Sweeney, Director of Policy for WhatsApp, Europe said that “there are no changes to WhatsApp’s data-sharing practices in Europe arising from this update. It remains the case that WhatsApp does not share European Region WhatsApp user data with Facebook for the purpose of Facebook using this data to improve its products or ads”.
The Legal Glitch
Till date, India has not passed the data protection bill in the parliament. In fact, India’s data protection law has been languishing for two years by now.
The Road Ahead
WhatsApp’s policy of rolling out separate privacy and data sharing policies for Europe and India has raised fresh demands for a stringent data protection law in India. If India had a data protection law in place, WhatsApp would not have been able to go ahead with this update in the first place.
The fact that majority of WhatsApp users in India are not aware of the WhatsApp privacy policies means that it is generally difficult to be understood by the public. However, among communities of people who have a higher degree of awareness about data protection and privacy, this shift is already perceptible.
With over 400 million WhatsApp users in India, we definitely need stringent data protection legislation in place in order to be able to regulate technology companies like Facebook Inc. This process will act as deterrent law to safeguard citizen’s data and privacy and institutionalize mechanisms to lead to better enforcement of laws.