Gist of Rollback Privacy Policy - Govt. to Whatsapp Notes | Study Gist of Rajya Sabha TV / RSTV (now Sansad TV) - UPSC

UPSC: Gist of Rollback Privacy Policy - Govt. to Whatsapp Notes | Study Gist of Rajya Sabha TV / RSTV (now Sansad TV) - UPSC

The document Gist of Rollback Privacy Policy - Govt. to Whatsapp Notes | Study Gist of Rajya Sabha TV / RSTV (now Sansad TV) - UPSC is a part of the UPSC Course Gist of Rajya Sabha TV / RSTV (now Sansad TV).
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Rollback Privacy Policy - Govt. to Whatsapp: RSTV- Big Picture

Rollback Privacy Policy:
Anchor: Teena Jha

Participants:
Brijesh Singh, IG, Maharashtra Police.
Advocate Anuj Agrawal, Cyber Law Expert.

Context:
Indian Government has asked the instant messaging platform WhatsApp to withdraw its recent privacy policy update.

Background:
Whatsapp has come up with a new privacy policy in January 2021. In this new policy, WhatsApp made two significant changes which are:

  • Almost all the data of the users will now be shared with Facebook and all other associates of the company. It not only means that WhatsApp is sharing the data with the parent company but also with the associates.
    (i) As a user, one does not have any idea who is going to have access to his/her data.
    (ii) Whatsapp is only making sure that the chats and calls are safe and end to end encrypted.
    (iii) Other than that, each and every piece of information will be shared which includes the locational data, IP address of the user, business name of the user, personal information of the user, etc.
    (iv) This is totally against the privacy guaranteed by the Constitution under Article 21.
  • The second change is the discriminatory nature of this privacy policy. This type of data collection or data sharing policy is not allowed in European countries because they have Global Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) under which privacy of residents of the European Union is protected.

Indian Government’s reaction to this new privacy policy:

  • The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology sent a notice to WhatsApp asking the company to withdraw its latest privacy policy update. The Ministry said that “We have a sovereign responsibility to protect the rights and interests of Indian citizens. The government will consider various options available under the law.”
  • The IT Ministry said that changes to the privacy policy undermine the values of informational privacy, data security, and user choice for Indian users and harms the rights and interests of Indian citizens.
  • This is the second communication by the IT Ministry to WhatsApp asking to withdraw its controversial privacy policy. In January, the Ministry had written to Whatsapp, asking that the latest privacy and policy update be withdrawn.
  • In the new notice sent, the IT Ministry reiterated the “discriminatory” treatment meted out to Indian WhatsApp users compared to those in Europe.
  • “Many Indian citizens depend on WhatsApp to communicate in everyday life. It is not just problematic, but also irresponsible, for WhatsApp to leverage this position to impose unfair terms and conditions on Indian users, particularly those that discriminate against Indian users vis-à-vis users in Europe,” the new notice reads.
  • The Competition Commission of India is also looking into the privacy policy unveiled by WhatsApp.

Whatsapp’s argument on the notice:

  • Despite the threat of legal action and some strong observations by the Ministry, WhatsApp seems undeterred.
  • Apart from this, the company has also said that a majority of its users have already accepted the new privacy policy, but the company refused to specify the exact number. 
  • According to Whatsapp, for regular WhatsApp users, the new update doesn’t mean anything. There is end-to-end encryption for chats and calls so that the personal conversation will remain private.

Status of Privacy Law in India:

  • In Justice K. S. Puttaswamy (Retd) Vs Union of India case, the Supreme Court of India said that the Right to Privacy is a fundamental right under Article 21. Read more on the Puttaswamy Case. 
  • The B.N.Srikrishna committee framed the draft of the Personal Data Protection Bill. The data protection bill is pending in parliament.

Why do these companies have the edge to introduce such policies in India?

  • Lack of dedicated privacy law has given an opportunity to such tech giants to ignore privacy-related concerns. When the government of the country is not serious about enacting such laws, and the government is not sure about how much privacy should be maintained, the companies have an edge to present before various courts to defend themselves.
  • Therefore, we can say that these companies are taking advantage of such loopholes present in the system to monetize and expand their businesses by using the data of the users.

Way Forward:

  • Strict laws, whether it is based on the model of GDPR of European countries or not, should be enacted in India to protect the data of the Indian users.
  • Users should also resist such policies which are discriminatory and harmful to their privacy. People can switch to other platforms such as Signal, which is a rival of Whatsapp.

Conclusion:

  • The people of India and the government should stand united against such tech giants who want to use the personal data of the people to monetize their businesses. Parliament should enact data protection laws to hold such corporations accountable.
The document Gist of Rollback Privacy Policy - Govt. to Whatsapp Notes | Study Gist of Rajya Sabha TV / RSTV (now Sansad TV) - UPSC is a part of the UPSC Course Gist of Rajya Sabha TV / RSTV (now Sansad TV).
All you need of UPSC at this link: UPSC

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