WhatsApp has brought a brand-new update for its privacy policy; the Facebook-owned messaging platform shares insight into the type of information it collects from users and data it shares with other Facebook services. The corporate also confirms that any user failing to accept the updated WhatsApp privacy policy will lose access to their account. WhatsApp later clarified doesn't change anything when it involves personal messaging and only impacts some new messaging with businesses. However, now users have till May 15 to read through, internalize and accept the new policy and its changes. Earlier, the deadline was February 8, which had added to the panic among users.

How WhatsApp collects Data?

In the privacy policy, WhatsApp highlights information that it shares with its parent company Facebook and why. "WhatsApp receives information from and shares information with the other Facebook Companies. They use the Data they receive from them, which they use the Data WhatsApp shares with them, for improving their services," the new WhatsApp policy notes.

The messaging platform reveals that the Data it shares with Facebook Companies includes account registration information and how users interact with others, including business, mobile device information, and IP address.

The policy also informs that when users consider "third-party services or other Facebook Company Products, those third-party services receive information about what people share in WhatsApp." as an example, users either use Google Drive or iCloud to repeat chats, which by default provides their services access to WhatsApp chats/messages.

WhatsApp highlights that it collects some more information from devices like "battery level, signal strength, app version, browser information, mobile network, connection information (including telephone number, mobile operator or ISP), language and zone, IP address, device operations information, and identifiers (including identifiers unique to Facebook)."

How the US has access to the information shared by us in WhatsApp?

WhatsApp mentions within the privacy policy that it assists Facebook's global infrastructure and data centers, including those within the US, to store user data. This is often the primary time the platform has openly shared about "How they collect data and store them." The policy also states that the info gets transferred to the US or other parts where Facebook has affiliated companies. WhatsApp's new policy states that albeit a user doesn't use their location-relation features, they collect "IP addresses and other information like telephone number area codes to estimate your general location (city, country)."

What about your transaction data?

WhatsApp has launched a payment feature just for India; it says that if we use WhatsApp Pay, additional information, including payment account and transaction information, is processed by the corporate. This is often information required to finish the transaction, like payment method, shipping details, and transaction amount. "If you employ our payments services available in your country or territory, our privacy practices are described within the applicable payments,' privacy policy," it adds.

How is the damage done?

WhatsApp has assured within the new post that users don't have anything to be worried about it. "WhatsApp was built on an easy idea: what you share with your friends and family stays between you. This suggests we'll always protect your conversations with end-to-end encryption so that neither WhatsApp nor Facebook can see these private messages. This is often why they don't keep logs of who everyone's messaging or calling. They also can't see our shared location and that they don't share contacts with Facebook," it says.

To a particular extent, yes. But the damage has been done. What the new privacy policy has done is remind users about the linkages between Facebook and WhatsApp, which many wouldn't have taken seriously thus far. With Facebook's not-so-great record in privacy, users seem to be rethinking if they need to be messaging everybody from their parents to bosses via a service owned by the social network.

What choice do we have?

To continue using WhatsApp, we'd like to accept the new terms and conditions simply. If we don't wish to, WhatsApp, too, suggests deleting our account. Users who have already taken the new terms and conditions but don't want WhatsApp to share data with Facebook or other businesses will have a further 30 days to opt-out and delete their account.

WhatsApp policies on data-sharing will not be changed for users in Europe.

Niamh Sweeney, Director of Policy for WhatsApp, Europe, said, "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 General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe has very strict law protecting privacy and data of its people, unlike India where Personal Data Protection bill is yet to be enacted into a law."

Section 43A of the IT Act, 2000 stresses the companies adopt reasonable security practices to guard user's data and adopt a transparent privacy policy during this regard. This includes- what information is collected, how it's collected, for what purpose it's collected, and requires the legit consent of a user for any transfer which needs to be done." However, enforcement may be a big challenge for the user as he often cannot discharge the burden of proving their data has been collected illegally supported ambiguous terms and can't prove such data's misuse to say compensation". But the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) has said that the govt should either restrict WhatsApp from implementing the new privacy policy or ban WhatsApp and Facebook in India.

Delhi High Court on Plea Against WhatsApp's Updated Privacy Policy

Observing that WhatsApp is a 'private app' and that the users voluntarily use the app even though they have the option not to use it. The single-judge bench of Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva of the Delhi High Court asked the petitioner, Adv Chaitanya Rohilla, who has challenged WhatsApp's updated privacy policy, "What is your grievance? It's a private app, don't join it."

Adv. Manohar Lal, appearing for Rohilla, replied, "WhatsApp shares information globally. Everything they gather from us is shared." The Court then said, "Mr. Lal, there are two issues. One is that your messages are looked into and shared. Two is that your browsing history is shared," and asked him to explain what his issue was.

When the petitioner replied that "they analyze browsing history and form an opinion about the user and share that," the Court said, "All apps do that." In reply to this, Rohilla's counsel said that while in Europe and the US, WhatsApp is giving an option to accept or reject the updated policy. Here in India, no such option is given.

The Court reiterated, "You have an option, don't use the app."

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