The Tech Giant WhatsApp has always been a hot topic of discussion. Whether it’s about new features, new interfaces, or even new privacy concerns, WhatsApp has never failed to make it to the section of trending news every now and then. Adding to that, WhatsApp is now a part of the list that many Countries have issued a red flag against.
The war between WhatsApp and different countries is not new. WhatsApp updates its privacy policies so regularly that it’s difficult to make them all work together, without compromising. Many countries including China, North Korea, Syria, and Iran have actually banned the platform. National security is the primary reason for the ban. In UAE, the video calling feature of WhatsApp is not allowed. While other countries have passed some stringent regulations to regulate how WhatsApp works in their country.
WhatsApp has recently rolled out a new policy for its users across the World. The policy directly asked users to give their consent to share their personal data with Facebook. Anyone who disobeys will be rewarded with the permanent suspension of their account. Following this, the platform has seen a mass decline in its number of active users. People have restored to alternate messaging apps like Signal, Telegram, etc. to avoid being part of this forceful implementation.
More importantly, the above-mentioned WhatsApp policy has been customized to suit the privacy laws of a particular nation. So WhatsApp has made it mandatory for India and other countries to abide by their policy change(since we don’t have a Privacy Law in place right now). But at the same time, WhatsApp has even clarified that the European Countries are exempted from this policy. This relaxation to European Countries is given solely because they have a very strong privacy law-GDPR.
HOW ACTUALLY IS GDPR ACTING AS A SHIELD FOR EUROPEAN COUNTRIES?
Ever since WhatsApp has announced its new Privacy Policies for users to abide by, UK is the only region to still enjoy the relaxation. The only powerful reason being its privacy regulation named GDPR(General Data Protection Regulation). It gives their residents more control over their personal data and forces companies to make sure the way they collect, process, and store data is safe.
All the companies that collect more than the allowed data are bound to be fined heavily. Only essential data is allowed to be collected by the companies. Any company that disobeys GDPR Regulations is fined a huge amount of € 20 million or 4% of the annual global turnover of the company. Many tech giants including Facebook and Google have faced huge penalties in the past as a consequence of violating the GDPR.
Since India is still in the process of implementing the PDPB(Personal Data Protection Bill), Indian users have to follow what WhatsApp says. But as soon as this policy came, the Indian Govt intervened in between. They said that the new policy is degrading the “Right To Privacy”. And WhatsApp should not implement this if they want to continue their services in India.
Only a few months later, the Indian Government rolled out amendments in IT Act on how a Social Media Platform should work. They asked platforms like WhatsApp to end their end-to-end encryption, and also to deploy a grievance officer in India. They clearly gave the time duration to platforms to either abide or stop their functioning in the Country. In response to this, WhatsApp agreed to abide by the given clauses selectively. They appointed “Mr. Paresh B Lal” as the grievance officer to comply with the new IT laws. But simultaneously, they filed a lawsuit against the government. They claimed that the government’s demand to end the strong encryption is violating the “Fundamental Right to Privacy”.
CURRENT SCENARIO: WHATSAPP Vs CENTRE
So as of now, 2 cases both WhatsApp Vs Centre are running in the High Court. In the first case, WhatsApp is defending its new privacy policies to share data with Facebook and its sister companies. The Centre is opposing on the ground of protecting its users by this trick-consent practice of WhatsApp before the Personal Data Protection Bill comes into play.
While in the 2nd case, the Centre is defending itself on the grounds of national security. They argued that knowing the first originator is an example of “reasonable restriction”. While WhatsApp argued that it is a clear violation of the fundamental right to privacy. In response to that, the Government defended itself by highlighting the issue as a global issue. They mentioned that 5 other countries are in support of such IT Rules that allow the government to encrypt messages sent using the platform in order to protect the citizens.
WHAT IS THE FUTURE?
WhatsApp played very smartly with the timing of bringing out their policy since India lacks a Data Protection Law as of now. So they wanted to play safe by implementing the policy before India gets its own. But since the EU got exempted from following the policy because of its GDPR. So it strongly signals that it is high time for India to have a proper and robust Privacy Law in place.
Thus the fight between India and WhatsApp is not gonna stop till any party takes some strong action. Either WhatsApp will terminate its services in the country or they will learn how to provide service without interfering with user’s personal data too much. But the latter is only possible when Government actually converts the Personal Data Protection Bill from a draft to actual law.
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