How will the New WhatsApp Privacy Policy Affect Us?

On January 4, 2020, the California based tech giant WhatsApp announced its new privacy law. It allows data integration of all apps owned by Facebook which includes the Facebook App, WhatsApp and Instagram. This announcement has sparked worldwide condemnation. It is due to privacy issue concerns and the possibility of data mismanagement. 

Introduction

WhatsApp is a free messaging service which works on most smartphones today. The smartphone app updates its privacy policy to keep the app updated for changing circumstances. A new update to the privacy policy of WhatsApp was announced on January 4th 2020. It was stated that WhatsApp will collect data and share it with other apps coming under the umbrella of Facebook. This is following Mark Zuckerberg‘s announcement of data integration in October 2020. This will result in a massive data compilation of the users of Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram. It can make our data more vulnerable to hackers and other third-party users handling the data. WhatsApp has grown to become one of the most used apps in the world with a consumer base of almost 2 billion. Banking and direct messaging with automated company bots are some of the new features included within WhatsApp. 

It makes the company responsible for handling a huge amount of sensitive data. The allowing of permissions within the app such as access to our phone storage, camera, microphone and the phone gallery gives WhatsApp a tremendous amount of data relating to each individual which can be misused and sold to other companies. The issue of a breach in messaging is quite unlikely as WhatsApp’s messages are end to end encrypted. It means that our messages cannot be read by WhatsApp themselves. No third party will be able to also, owing to the complex encryption existing between the messages. The major concern that arises with the privacy policy is the ambiguity surrounding it. How the accumulated data by the app will be used and whether a breach in our personal data is something to be concerned about. 

Data Privacy in India

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Data protection laws within India is an emerging field. The issue of data privacy was first brought up in the Justice K.S Puttaswami (Retd.) & another v. Union of India wherein privacy of data concerns was brought up with relation to the implementation of Aadhar. In this case, the Supreme Court held that privacy is a fundamental but not absolute right. Privacy was included within the ambit of Article 21. Every individual within the country has the right to keep their data private. They can also allow the restriction of the commercialised use of the data of a person if they so wished. The granting of more rights to the individual when it comes to data is important. It is the first step towards the establishment of a strong data protection act within the country. 

A Comparative Perspective on Data Privacy

Data protection is a much more restricted field in countries that come under the European Union and the U.S . The usage of data for commercial purposes and handling of data is a much more serious concern. Data breaches get fined and punished . The GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) that exists within the EU is a strong regulation. It has fined tech giants such as Twitter for data breaches. Thus,such companies invest more in the protection of data within the areas coming under the ambit of the EU. In India, since no such regulation currently exists. Hence, data privacy becomes a much more serious issue for the people of India. A proposed Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 has been introduced and tabled before the parliament. This bill was introduced by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. It is currently under scrutiny by a parliamentary committee. The bill has strict data protection laws enclosed within it. It also gives the state a lot more control over the data of an individual. 

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A fine line must be drawn between the protection of data and the use of data by the government. As the world progresses, data is a commodity which is becoming more and more valuable. Incidents of data breaching become more prevalent each passing day. Within a few years, data has overtaken oil to become a valued commodity. It raises serious concerns about how our data is being used and why our personal information is valued so. Many free apps such as Google and Facebook use our data to show us personalized ads, but we can never be sure how else they might be using our data. 

Multiple allegations aimed at major companies trying to swing elections such as in the US and the Brexit referendum raise huge concerns related to data use and abuse by major companies. The issue of the nefarious use of data was first highlighted by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden wherein the use of data for surveillance by a country upon its own citizens and the citizens of other nations was exposed. Thus, the era of digital surveillance was born and the use of data was severely restricted. Since then, the amount of data that can be gathered on us have increased with the enlargement of the online presence of each individual. The government tracking our data has been a huge issue for concern within every country including ours and the responsibility of keeping our data safe falls upon the responsibility of every individual disclosing their data into cyberspace. 

Conclusion 

Privacy is an extremely important concern within the country, one that has not been addressed adequately. India is a country of over 1.3 billion people and is the world’s largest democracy. The protection of data thus becomes an extremely serious issue with the country, one that needs to be addressed immediately, lest every citizen’s information be chained by corporations to use for their own intentions.


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