India puts WhatsApp on notice over privacy policy

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India’s government has given WhatsApp — and by extension Facebook — seven days to withdraw its new privacy policy saying it violates several local laws.

The country’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) says that should the chat app fail to withdraw the policy by 25th May of this year, the government will take legal action. This is the second time MEITY has conveyed its dissatisfaction with the new privacy policy, having issued a similar letter to WhatsApp in January of this year.

Users were first informed of the changes to the app’s privacy policy in January and Facebook had planned to implement them the following month. However, after a substantial backlash, the policy was delayed until the 15th of May. Users can choose to either accept the new policy or opt-out, a move that would cause user experience on the app to degrade significantly.

Should the Indian government make good on its threat, it could prove to be a colossal blow to WhatsApp since that country is the app’s biggest market with around 450 million active users.

Bad week for WhatsApp

It’s been a rather rocky seven days for WhatsApp and Facebook. Last week, German authorities banned the chat app over its privacy policy, calling its terms and conditions  “intransparent, inconsistent and overly broad.”

Closer to home, the Information Regulator has threatened litigation over the privacy policy, saying South African users should be offered the same terms and conditions as those offered to citizens in European Union (EU) nations.

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