Privacy of citizens is too important to be left to the business practices of digital companies
The WhatsApp policy update has clearly spooked many users, who, concerned about their privacy getting compromised, have shifted to alternative platforms such as Signal and Telegram. In recent weeks, according to media reports, messaging app Signal has topped the app store charts in India and many other countries. Interestingly, WhatsApp uses the same end-to-end encryption protocol as Signal.
An under-fire WhatsApp, on its part, has tried to allay fears about privacy being compromised because of the updates. It has put out numerous messages and taken out advertisements to convey that the changes are “related to optional business features on WhatsApp, and provides further transparency about how we collect and use data”.
Millions of business interactions take place every day on WhatsApp, and the new privacy updates are supposedly to make these easier while also enabling personalised ads on Facebook. After all this, WhatsApp has pushed the update to May 15.
The change will ultimately be inevitable, given that WhatsApp, bought by Facebook for a whopping $19 billion and having subsequently given up plans to charge its users, would be betting on its handling of business interactions to make its big monies. Even then, it cannot force these changes on its users in Europe. For, Europe’s stringent General Data Protection Regulation, more popularly called GDPR, prevents such sharing between apps.
Users there are in control of their data much more than anywhere else in the world. India could do with such a law. All it has is a draft version of a law, and it has been so for a few years now. Privacy of a billion citizens is too important a thing to be left just to the practices of a commercial enterprise. It will be reassuring if it is guaranteed by a strong law.