WhatsApp May Drop its New Privacy Policy in Many Countries As Backlash Intensifies

WhatsApp May Drop its New Privacy Policy in Many Countries As Backlash Intensifies

WhatsApp has backtracked on its decision to withhold some features of the messaging app for users who refused to accept its controversial updated privacy policy.

The parent company, Facebook, now says that the plan has changed, and users who don’t accept the updated policy actually won’t see limited functionality for now. The decision was made after the social media company spoke with governments and privacy advocates.

“Given recent discussions with various authorities and privacy experts, we want to make clear that we currently have no plans to limit the functionality of how WhatsApp works for those who have not yet accepted the update. Instead, we will continue to remind users from time to time about the update as well as when people choose to use relevant optional features, like communicating with a business that is receiving support from Facebook,” the company said in a statement.

The new WhatsApp privacy policy has generated a flurry of backlash by governments and privacy advocacy groups since it was announced late last year.

India, Facebook’s largest market, where WhatsApp has more than 400 million people in its user-base, kicked seriously against the update. Last week, the government asked Facebook to withdraw the new policy roll out. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) said the new policy violates several laws and rules, and gave Facebook seven days to respond. The regulator said that if the response from the Facebook-owned company is not satisfactory, the government can take lawful actions against the social networking giant.

Although the Indian government is following a different approach, the decision comes a week after Germany banned the new WhatsApp privacy policy.

The Nigerian government has also issued warning to its citizens about accepting the new privacy policy as it violates National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) privacy rules.

“Nigerians may wish to know that there are other available platforms with similar functionalities they may wish to explore. Choice of platform should consider other practices, privacy, ease of use, among other things,” NITDA said.

The watchdog further warned Nigerians to “limit the sharing of sensitive personal information and private messaging on social media platforms as the initial promise of privacy and security is now being overridden on the basis of business exigency.”

Last week, Nigeria’s Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy said its working to ensure that WhatsApp’s new privacy policy does not breach the privacy rights of Nigerian WhatsApp users.

“The Federal Government released the Nigeria Data Protection Regulations (NDPR) in 2019 and is committed to upholding the data privacy of Nigerians. We are also aware that the European region is exempt from the provisions of the updated Policy and it is also being challenged in a number of countries.

“The Honourable Minister has therefore directed the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), as the Regulator of the Information Technology sector, to engage vigorously with Facebook to understand the processes, level of security, etc of the data of Nigerian users in order to ensure that Policies proposed for Nigeria strictly adhere to the provisions of NDPR,” the Ministry said.

With the intense pressure coming from many countries of its operation, especially its huge markets, Facebook is beginning to change tone, signaling that it may totally quash the new privacy policy in some countries. Although the social media giant said it doesn’t misuse people’s private information, and that many WhatsApp users have voluntarily accepted the new policy, governments are still strongly opposed to it.

User information collected by WhatsApp are as follows:

  • account information;
    messages (including undelivered messages, media forwarding);
    connections;
    status information;
    transactions and payments data;
    usage and log information;
    device and connection information;
    location information;
    cookies etc.
    Other information collected by WhatsApp include:
    battery level;
    signal strength;
    app version;
    browser information;
    mobile network;
    connection information (including phone number, mobile operator or ISP), language and time zone;
    Internet Protocol address;
    device operations information;
    social media identifiers.

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