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 Privacy and surveillance 

Synopsis: Issue of WhatsApp privacy policy has again raised the concern of data privacy in India. What are the options available with the government to handle this issue? 

Introduction  

Facebook’s revenue model uses data on its platform to allow advertisers to target relevant consumers. 

Now Facebook Inc. wants to integrate the services from WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook. The intent behind this step is to monetise their use by consumers. 

WhatsApp is one of the most used Social Media App in India. It is capable to share user metadata and mobile information of Indian users with Facebook, its parent company.  

Now, Indian government is looking for ways to protect the data privacy of Indian Users.   

What are the steps that government can take? 

The Ministry of Electronics and IT has sent WhatsApp a series of queries. It includes, why Indian users would be sharing information with Facebook, unlike EU. 

  • Data protection laws in the EU have strict restrictions on storage and transfer of user data. Thus, data transfer from WhatsApp to Facebook is not possible in such regions.  
  • Whereas, in 2019, government in India diluted the provisions of Data protection bill. For, example, it only set the requirement of keeping sensitive personal data in India. Whereas, in the Srikrishna Committee recommended the same for all personal data.   
  • The Indian government should also bring in a strong data protection bill which aligns with the recommendations of the Srikrishna Committee. 
  • The committee tried to address concerns about online data privacy in line with the 2018 Puttaswamy judgment. 

However, data localisation also carries the possibility of domestic surveillance over Indian citizens.  

Way forward 

Privacy is better addressed by stronger contractual conditions on data sharing and better security tools being adopted by the applications that secure user data. Thus, with the data localisation, stronger checks on state surveillance are also required. 

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