oppn parties WhatsApp Is Wrong In Asking All Users To Agree To Share Private Data

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Bengal police arrests TMC leader Sk Shahjahan, the prime accused in the Sandeshkhali disturbances
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WhatsApp Is Wrong In Asking All Users To Agree To Share Private Data

By Sunil Garodia
First publised on 2021-01-18 07:45:00

About the Author

Sunil Garodia Editor-in-Chief of indiacommentary.com. Current Affairs analyst and political commentator.

The confusion over the changes in the privacy settings of popular instant messaging app WhatsApp once again shows the urgency for a comprehensive data protection law in India. The government is not realizing the mischief that big multinational corporations in the internet space can do with consumer data. Although the government banned certain Chinese apps recently when data breach was discovered, it was a knee jerk reaction that is not going to solve the problem. Only a comprehensive data protection law on the lines of the General Data Protection Law (GDPR) of the European Union can prevent misuse of consumer data.

WhatsApp has changed its data privacy policy to allow sharing of data between the instant messaging app and its parent Facebook. Although the company has pointed out that this is applicable only for business users, it has been sending out messages to all users to accept this upgrade to its privacy policy, giving an indication that their data might also be shared. If it wanted to share the data of people or business entities using WhatsApp for commercial reasons, it could have changed the privacy policy only for them since one has to create a separate business account of the app. Suspicion about its intentions will obviously be raised if such acceptance of the changed privacy policy is across the board for all users.

To be fair to WhatsApp (as it provides free service to users), as a business entity that needs to earn money it will try to monetize its content in all possible ways. But privacy is a huge issue and Facebook knows this from the days it was drawn into the Cambridge Analytica scandal and many users left the platform fearing breach of privacy. For Facebook, the best way to get out of this mess would be to change the privacy policy and allow sharing of data only for users who register as business users in either WhatsApp or Facebook. That would be fair to both the users and the company. On the other hand, India must work to enact the Personal data Protection Bill, 2019 that has been kept on the backburner for long. That would go a long way in ensuring that companies do not play around with the personal data of users.