The Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has asked the messenger to withdraw the proposed changes and reconsider its approach to information privacy, freedom of choice, and data security.
In an email addressed to WhatsApp’s global head Will Cathcart on Monday, the ministry asked him to clarify issues related to the messenger’s “privacy and data transfer and sharing policies, and general business practices,” within a week, media reported.
The proposed policy changes “will have a disproportionate impact on the Indian citizens,” given that India is WhatsApp’s largest user base globally, with 400 million users out of 2000 million.
The government also asked WhatsApp to answer 14 questions related to the proposed update within seven days of the email.
The messenger said the update will not change data-sharing with Facebook with regard to personal conversations or other profile information. The policy changes only address business chats in the event a user converses with a company’s customer service platform through WhatsApp.
But concerned users continued to migrate to other messengers, with Signal being their first alternative messenger.
“These changes enable WhatsApp, and other Facebook companies, to make invasive and precise inferences about users which may not be reasonably foreseen or expected by users in the ordinary course of accessing these services,” said the ministry.
“These changes notify users that WhatsApp will collect highly invasive and granular metadata, such as time, frequency and duration of interactions, group names, payments and transaction data, online status, location indicators, as well as any messages shared by users with business accounts…Whether this will enable better provision of services to users or not is beside the point, the issue is the impact it has on informational privacy, data security, and user choice.”