WhatsApp's announcement to change its policies creates unrest

19 January 2021

WhatsApp's announcement to change its policies creates unrest

WhatsApp made a public announcement that it is about to change its policy on January 4, 2021, effective tentatively from May 15, 2021 (as opposed to earlier proposed February 8, 2021) leading to a hullabaloo, and unprecedented panic amongst its users. Considering the recent furrow around data privacy and the nonchalance with which users have been communicating through platforms like WhatsApp, it was only natural that its existing user base was found to be in frenzy with its cryptic announcement.

Except for the European region where personal data and privacy are regulated by the General Data Protection Regulation, WhatsApp's new policy will impact the users across the globe.

According to Vasundhara Shankar, Managing Partner, Verum Legal, the major change that the online messaging platform made to its privacy policy was that its users now did not have a choice of selecting whether they would want to share their data with WhatsApp and in turn, its parent company Facebook.

“While WhatsApp made no claim of access to personal messages or accessing encrypted data, it did invite memes galore with its decision to share data with its parent, quite directly and uninhibitedly,” she says,

Because WhatsApp has tapped over 5 million businesses in 2020, where 15 million business users were purchasing products or services, interacting with a business, using the Platform, this means that the Platform has seen a total of 2 billion users in 2020, making it one of the busiest platforms for businesses.

“With a massive user base, WhatsApp’s transition into business marketing was a rather smooth sailing affair, she says.

“Resultantly, the sudden announcement, claiming the change of privacy policy for users came as a surprise to the business accounts on WhatsApp. Brand owners and businesses, as per this new policy, might face a bigger roadblock owing to the fact that business messages, as per WhatsApp’s policy, can be read by Facebook and could be used for marketing purposes.

This change can hardly be said to be “welcome”. As per the claims by WhatsApp, however, individual’s rights, when interacting with non-business accounts, also remain unaffected.”

Mudit Kaushik, Counsel, Zeus IP adds,  “While data privacy is an undisputed, primary concern that WhatsApp’s move has unravelled, one of the biggest concerns that this move brings to light is with respect to a market leader’s attitude towards its users. The strategic growth of a company, into becoming a world leader in its domain, and its ownership by an even bigger conglomerate ensures its position and consolidates its power. With growing data, its growth in power and these new-age companies are only emboldening their hold, by collecting and storing as much data as is possible! One tends to think - is creating blunt-toothed policies, sufficient?”

The question he poses remains to be seen.


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