WhatsApp Privacy Policy Issue: Need for Personal Data Protection Law

Source: Indian Express

GS-2: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.

Synopsis: Draft data protection law needs to be enacted in India to curb data privacy violations in India.

What is the issue?

  • Recently, WhatsApp updated its terms of service (ToS) and privacy policy for users. It permits WhatsApp to share users’ data with Facebook and its companies with their consent.
  • This data would include transaction data, mobile device information, IP addresses, and other metadata on how users interact with businesses on WhatsApp.
  •  This is a classic case of an organization using its near-monopolistic power against the interest of Consumers.
  • The government responded strongly by asking the platform to withdraw proposed changes. Along with this, the government sought their response to 14 queries related to their practices in India.
Why it is a cause of concern?
  • First, Even though sharing will be done by notifying the user it is against the Principle Of Purpose Limitation. The principle has been used to address Privacy concerns at a global level.
  • Second,  Facebook has a poor record on data protection of its users. For example, Analytica data scam during the 2016 US elections and Brexit.
  • Third, recently there were reports stating that Facebook is entering into data-sharing deals with other tech firms like Apple, Amazon, Spotify.
  • Fourth, it is a cause of concern because WhatsApp’s growth was mainly due to its virtue of protecting user privacy through end-to-end encryption. But, with the change in the privacy policy on users, they are breaking away from their core virtue.


Principle Of Purpose Limitation

    1. A specific and legitimate reason is needed for the collection of any personal data.
    2. Personal data can only be used for the specified reasons
    3. Exceptions could be made if further processing is for any of the following purposes:
      • archiving in the public interest
      • scientific or historical research
      • statistical reasons.
What is the way forward?
  • First, the government should pass the Personal Data Protection Bill (PDPB) 2019 because of the following reasons,
    • It has the provision on Principle Of Purpose Limitation. This would have restricted  WhatsApp’s action as it is illegal against the Principle Of Purpose Limitation.
    • Such practices are not allowed in the EU. Their users’ private data is protected by General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
  • Second, given the digital proliferation in the country tech giants needs to be monitored closely through competent legal and regulatory frameworks.

In India, the User base of social media for communications and business is increasing at a fast pace. Hence, it should be the priority of the government to ensure a safer digital space. 

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