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WhatsApp’s New Privacy Policy : Cruising or Chaos?

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Privacy Policy in India

The Government of India has prescribed the Information Technology (Reasonable Security Practices and Procedures and Sensitive personal data or Information) Rules, 2011 that requires corporates to provide a ‘privacy policy’ for dealing with personal information or sensitive data.

The privacy policy should be published on the company’s website and be accessible to the information providers (consumers) who have under lawful contract, provided personal information.

This article highlights ‘WhatsApp’s Privacy Policy’ in relation to the Privacy Policy that India has adopted.


In accordance with the Rules, the key features of the policy are:

Rule 1 – Defines ‘personal sensitive data’ as debit or credit card information, internet passwords, medical records, etc.

Rule 2 – Each corporate body should provide a privacy policy for dealing with sensitive data and personal information. The policy shall be on the website of the company. The policy should include:

  • The type of information or data collected.
  • The use and purpose of collecting such data. It must be clear and easy to interpret the statement of a company’s practices and policies.
  • Security practice and procedures
  • Disclosure of Information

Rule 3 – provisions that govern the collection of personal information by corporates:

  • An information provider can decide to opt out of providing such information at any stage
  • A grievance redressal body should be set up to solve discrepancies
  • (Sensitive or personal data) should be disclosed to the user. The data cannot be collected without users consent
  • Data shall not be kept post its time limit or for a period longer than required.
  • The information collected shall be used only for the intended purpose it was collected.

Rule 4 – in order to disclose sensitive information to third parties, the information provider’s consent is required. Except in cases mandated by law.

WhatsApp’s Privacy Policy

The year 2009 saw two ex-yahoo employees deciding to build a tech product that would enable any two users in the world to, as simple as it sounds, chat. Little did they know that in the next 6 years, WhatsApp would break grounds in the way people communicated. No more paying for SMS, worries about message lag or apprehension over the delivery of a message. Forget having to login to a social media site to reach out to your dear ones. WhatsApp has ultimately introduced us to the world of seamless communication.

WhatsApp has saved us money and time in the best way possible. Through the years they have also, phenomenally succeeded in including other tools such as WhatsApp calls, voice notes and location share. And now, for the first time in four years, WhatsApp has decided to share its database of your phone numbers with Facebook, the acquiring company. This means that WhatsApp will have integrated features and services on its app. This works into their marketing strategy as banks, insurances, hotels, travel reservations etc. would be able to send messages to you directly on WhatsApp. The claim is also, that it will further decrease spam and provide more user-tailored suggestions.

Here are a few key points of WhatsApp’s New Privacy policy:

  1. WhatsApp is still Ad-free, just as it was before the update. Phew.
  2. Details about the smartphone such as – operating system, online status, the number registered on WhatsApp and so on will be shared with Facebook. We are talking about two of the largest databases sharing information with each other.
  3. Facebook can now use targeted advertisements on its website and app. Gee. More ads.
  4. There are concerns that Facebook can use data mining to its advantage by compiling all of WhatsApp’s user data. However, WhatsApp stated that it will continue to operate independently and content will not be shared unless users have given their consent.
  5. WhatsApp messages won’t be shared with Facebook, well thank God for this. We would have to redefine the term ‘privacy’ otherwise. Although, there is no mention of the type of information restricted and to whom it is issued (third party business).
  6. End-to-end encryption is here for the long haul. WhatsApp will continue to encrypt all communications on the app. This means no-one, not even WhatsApp, can see your messages. It remains strictly between you and the person you choose to communicate with.
  7. Businesses across the world can set up business accounts on WhatsApp and communicate directly with consumers through the app. This could be a receipt to a recent purchase made at a store or a bus or flight booking to cite a few examples.
  8. WhatsApp will still allow its users to block inappropriate or unwelcome messages, especially from unknown profiles. Spam is still a major concern on all social platforms.
  9. All WhatsApp users will have a 30 day time limit to accept the new policy terms and conditions. Post which WhatsApp will keep bugging you to update it.
  10. Once the terms and conditions have been accepted, the user has another 30 days to opt out, should the user choose to. This time limit that has been allotted, seems rather insufficient for any ideal user. Most users almost never read the terms and conditions of any application or website. In this case, users will fail to understand what they are giving their consent to and how a small little tick unticked ensures users privacy. In other words, if the user realises that he should not have consented to the new policies only after 30 days, he/she will be in no position to retract the consent.
  11. WhatsApp will help organisations protect their copyrighted content and intellectual property rights. If an infringement is reported by a user, WhatsApp can legally sue or take lawful action. It is unclear if this applies to music and videos shared on the app, because all messages are encrypted. A point of major concern is how WhatsApp would take legal recourse against an infringement if the end-to-end encryption policy still holds good? The dots don’t seem to connect.

In light of these changes, WhatsApp users have taken to online portals and social media to express their concerns. Reviews on reddit seem quite apt to describe a public opinion. The chaos and mistrust expressed on this thread resonates in the minds of all WhatsApp users alike, on a global scale.


Though WhatsApp does inform the user of the new changes, there are no set of standards legally when it comes to adequately informing the customer. WhatsApp’s primary source of contact and information relating to the update is published on WhatsApp’s company blog. Under WhatsApp’s new privacy policy, it claims that the terms and conditions are easier to understand, though after careful review, I concur, there is scope for misinterpretation. WhatsApp can make privacy changes without any approval, unless there is a case of massive public protest. Basically, WhatsApp can change their privacy policy at any time to include banner ads, general ads, pop-ups even, though this route seems doubtful. And we hope it stays that way.

Every six months, Facebook is required to publish a transparency report. This report contains details of court orders and government requests asking for specific information, user data in particular. Will these reports contain WhatsApp data in the future if and when asked for? This is an issue that requires to be addressed.

On the flip side, the concept behind WhatsApp’s new privacy policy, in a way, makes total sense. In order to differentiate themselves from competitors like Telegram, WeChat, etc. they refuse to include ads in the app, which is two huge thumbs up for consumers like us. The new policies are a way for WhatsApp to generate the revenue it deserves. This, not only would help in improved versions of the product in the future, it also means that the new extended services would help it’s daily users have a cleaner communication experience. Now that you know Whatsapp’s privacy policy, it would help if you go through our article on how to draft ‘Privacy Policy’ in India.

07 Sep, 16

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